Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 01 Issue 02

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Volume 01, No. 2
Pages 18 - 22


White Waters of the Gulf of Maine

By S. Ackleson , W.M. Balch, and P.M. Holligan 
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For more than 100 years plankton biologists and marine geologists have been well aware that coccolithophores, a group of phytoplankton that produce external calcium carbonate plates or coccoliths (see figure on Table of Contents page), are widespread and abundant in the oceans (see Brongersma-Sanders, 1957: Bramlette, 1958). At high concentrations of cells and detached coccoliths, the water appears milky white in color, primarily due to light scatter from the coccoliths. Sightings of “white water” have been reported for virtually all of the world’s oceans. Yet, only recently using ocean satellite remote sensing have we begun to fully appreciate the magnitude of the spatial and temporal scales of coccolithophore blooms (Holligan et al., 1983) and the possible effects upon the optical, thermal and biogeochemical properties of surface ocean waters.


Ackelson, S., W.M. Balch, and P.M. Holligan. 1988. White waters of the Gulf of Maine. Oceanography 1(2):18–22, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.1988.03.

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