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During the El Nino in 1997 and 1998, the surface water in the eastern equatorial Pacific off the coast of South America was warmer than normal. This warm water trapped the ocean nutrients that normally come to the surface in the upwelling cold water, leading to a drastic decrease in phytonplankton and other ocean life in the region. The unique Galapagos ecosystem was severely affected and many species, including sea lions, seabirds, and baracudas, suffered a very high mortality level. During the second week of May, 1998, the ocean temperatures plummeted 10 degrees in one day, and the ocean productivity exploded with large phytoplankton blooms. After this time, many species recovered very rapidly and the land species started to reproduce immediately. The SeaWiFS instrument, which monitors global phytoplankton in the oceans by measuring the color of reflected light, caught this dramatic recovery. This visualization shws images from SeaWiFS starting on May 10, 1998 and ending on May 31, 1998, where ocean colors of blue or purple represents little or no ocean life and colors or yellow and red indicate significant ocean productivity. White and gray denote areas occluded by clouds in these images, and a relief image of the Galapagos Islands has been superimposed on the images to clarify the location of the islands.
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