The "dust-->algae-->penguin" connection
View from space of the massive growth of red, green, and blue single-celled plants, in the currents flowing north.
Growth may be fed by iron in the brown dust cloud, lower left.
In the ocean, iron feeds the algae, like phosphorus does in our lakes.
"Stirring Up a Bloom Off Patagonia
Off the coast of Argentina, two strong ocean currents recently stirred up a colorful brew of floating nutrients and microscopic plant life just in time for the Southern Hemisphere's summer solstice
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of a massive phytoplankton bloom off of the Atlantic coast of Patagonia on Dec. 21, 2010.
Scientists used seven separate spectral bands to highlight the differences in the plankton communities across this swath of ocean."
This bloom of algae helps sustain penguins. The famous Punta Tombo colony of Magellanic Penguins is found on the coast just below the odd peninsula (upper center of photo). With half a million of these birds, it's the largest breeding area for Magellanic Penguins in the world.
The North Pacific, west of Alaska, is extremely fertile. That's where the Humpback Whales come to fatten for the summer, and probably where your fish dinner comes from. This photo (below) of the Alaskan panhandle shows strong winds blowing dust into the ocean, towards the lower left.
Click to enlarge. NASA photo.
In Dane County, dust contributes nutrients to our lakes, especially during strong winds of early spring when the ground is bare. Urban dust, some from muddy tires, adds to airbourne nutrients.
Clouds of ash from distant forest fires can also deliver phosphorus to the lakes.
While windblown dust may be good for penguins and whales, it's bad for our lakes. It helps create toxic, smelly algae blooms--and ruins recreational values. A major source of windblown dust in Madison is mud tracked out of construction sites.
Quotes and photos thanks to NASA