The yellow and brown on this map of the western Canadian coast represent high concentrations of chlorophyll.
A California businessman lobbed 110 tons of iron into the ocean off the western coast of Canada this July, The Guardian revealed on Monday, and he did it in violation of two international moratoria on such activity. Russ George wanted to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton to sell carbon credits for the carbon dioxide that the tiny photosynthesizing organisms would take out of the atmosphere. Satellite images from August (above) showed that about 10,000 square kilometers of ocean greenery had already grown.
Melting sea ice develops chains of ponds on its surface.
Arctic sea ice is often up to 12 feet thick, insulating the water below from sunlight. Though carpets of green phytoplankton are common in the region once the ice melts in summer, the dark water below sea ice has always been considered a no-man’s-land for light-loving plant life.
However, as scientists on a research ship last year discovered, once the sea ice melts even a little, the validity of that assumption evaporates. They found a mat of plankton 30 feet thick and more than 100 miles wide blooming beneath a sheet of melting sea ice that was, at its thinnest, just under 3 feet thick. Enough light got through, thanks to the melting ice, for the plankton to thrive.