During the late summer of 1997, for the first time ever recorded, most of the continental shelf of the eastern Bering Sea was covered by aquamarine waters (Figure 1), resulting from a massive bloom of coccolithophores (Figure 2). Light reflecting off the calcium carbonate plates of the flagellated coccolithophores gave the water its anomalous color, which was first observed in July. The bloom was also clearly visible from space, as shown by some of the first images from the multispectral sea-viewing wide-field-of- view sensor (SeaWiFS) scanner in September.
Light penetration into the water column, essential for primary production by diatoms and other phytoplankton, was markedly reduced. This shift potentially altered the trophic dynamics throughout the food web of one of world's most productive ecosystems.