Geographic Information Systems

For the Love of Phytoplankton

Created by me on ArcGIS using data from NASA and Natural Earth.

For my first independent map-making quest, I decided to use NASA data to look at the variations in ocean chlorophyll concentrations over the last year. In flipping through the different months on the NASA NEO sight, I noticed that August had the lowest global concentrations, which makes sense. The concentration of chlorophyll changes with the temperature changes throughout the year. As you progress from January to December, you can see the concentrations travel from areas further south to areas further north and back again, which correlates to Sun’s changing angles of light as we complete our annual orbit with our planet’s tilted axis. The alarming thing, though, was just how much chlorophyll was lost.

The heavy concentration of black in the middle of the shades of blue is indicative of areas with no chlorophyll. Why? Because the water is too warm for it to thrive. The decreased chlorophyll leads to increased levels of CO2 in the air, since the ocean is responsible for most of the planet’s CO2 sequestration, and phytoplankton are the main components of that cycle.

There’s so much more to understand about this cycle specifically and this issue as a whole, and I hope to be able to do so going forward. But for now, just know that we’re already in trouble. 🙃

This post meets the requirements of Assignment 1 for Spring 2021 ESS302 at Drew University.

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