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Hurricanes churn up life-nurturing brews

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9:56am, April 28, 2004

Images of the North Atlantic taken from orbit suggest that hurricanes churn the ocean's surface enough to bring cool, nutrient-rich waters to the surface, thereby stimulating algal blooms that can last for weeks.

Some areas of the ocean don't support much surface life because the water lacks one or more of the nutrients required by marine microorganisms called phytoplankton, which are at the base of the sea's food chain. In many cases, however, those nutrients lie just a few dozen meters below the ocean surface. One such region with subsurface supplies of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates is the Sargasso Sea, says Steven M. Babin of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. This continent-size expanse of ocean lies east of Bermuda.

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