Science Systems and Applications, Inc. - Science and Technology with Passion

modeling phytoplankton effects on the carbon cycle

A phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Patagonia, taken by NASA's Aqua satelliteA phytoplankton bloom off the coast
of Patagonia, taken by NASA's
Aqua satellite. Credit: NASA
SSAI was the first to model and develop algorithms that use satellite instruments to improve our understanding of how microscopic phytoplankton beneath the surface of the ocean affect the carbon cycle. By discovering how these tiny, misshaped particles called coccolithophores reflect light, we provided a way to determine a more accurate way to use satellite instruments to determine how many exist beneath the surface of the ocean.

Despite their small size, these particles have large impacts on carbon cycle and climate studies. Coccolithophores, which occur in large blooms, cause carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—to be extracted from the air, acting as a carbon sink. Understanding the right quantity of coccolithophores is important for modeling the distribution of carbon, and in turn, the future of Earth’s climate.