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Plankton bloom turns canal waters a teal that can be spotted from space

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A NASA MODIS satellite image showing the teal-colored Hood Canal as a plankton bloom occurrs on July 29, 2017 (Photo: NASA/MODIS)

SEATTLE (KOMO) - Yes, the waters of Hood Canal are that light of a blue this week.

A number of people in Kitsap County have been remarking at the brightly teal-colored waters in Hood Canal over the past several days.

Turns out, it's caused by a huge bloom of microscopic phytoplankton plated with white calcium carbonate, according to Kathryn Hansen with the NASA Earth Observatory program.

"Under the right conditions, these coccolithophores flourish to such an extent that they are easily visible from space," Hansen said.

Satellite images started picking up the bloom on July 14 and they’ve remained there into early August.

Hansen says the bloom was there last summer, but before that, they hadn't been seen since 2007.

Teri King, marine water quality specialist with the University of Washington, says the likely cause of the recent bloom is "Hood Canal’s warm, stratified waters with limited nutrients. Water in Hood Canal does not always mix well, meaning the upper layer of water can have different temperature and salinity from deeper layers. Other phytoplankton species could have been limited by the poor nutrient conditions, under which coccolithophore blooms can do quite well."

Scientists say this bloom doesn’t pose any risk to swimmers nor eating any fish or shellfish from the waters.

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