News & Events

1. Oktober 2021

Australian bushfires triggered algal blooms

Smoke from Australia’s 2019-2020 bushfires stimulated large algal blooms that could be seen from space

A new study in Nature, suggests that nutrient-rich aerosols generated by the record Australian bushfire season were ‘sucked up’ by a gigantic phytoplankton bloom thousands of kilometres away in the Pacific Southern Ocean.

The extensive phytoplankton blooms are said to have covered an area approximately the size of the Sahara Desert, more than 9.4 million sq km.

chlorophyll-a concentration from 1997 to 2020 in the Pacific Southern Ocean, based on data from ESA’s Ocean Colour Climate Change Initiative

The researchers monitored aerosol plumes using data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) which include aerosol information from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). They then compared the aerosol observations to ocean chlorophyll concentrations recording by ESA’s Ocean Colour Climate Change Initiative project and found peaks in chlorophyll concentrations a few days to weeks later.

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The paper shows how fire, aerosols, winds and phytoplankton interact with each other across thousands of kilometres. Shubha Sathyendranath, Plymouth Marine Laboratory