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Map of ocean calcite band circling Antarctica

The Great Calcite Belt

The Great Calcite Belt appears from space as a vast milky-white band in the ocean encircling Antarctica. Its color comes from rich concentrations of the mineral calcite in waters near the surface. Scientists hypothesize that these high calcite concentrations are produced by massive blooms of algae that make plates out of calcite. Sarah Rosengaard, a graduate student in the MIT-WHOI joint Program in Oceanography, participated in research cruises to collect seawater samples from the Great Calcite Belt and used the Plasma Mass Spectometry Facility at WHO to measure calcium, an elemental component of calcite, in the samples. (Image courtesy of Sarah Rosengard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, based on data from W.M. Balch, D.T. Drapeau, B.C. Bowler, E. Lyczskowski, E.S. Booth, and D. Alley)

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