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The MERIS maximum chlorophyll index (MCI), measuring the radiance peak at 709 nm in water-leaving radiance, indicates the presence of a high surface concentration of chlorophyll a against a scattering background. The index is high in 'red tide' conditions (intense, visible, surface, plankton blooms) and is raised when aquatic vegetation is present. A bloom search based on the MCI has resulted in the detection of a variety of events in Canadian, Antarctic and other waters round the world, as well as detection of extensive areas of pelagic vegetation (Sargassum spp.), previously unreported in the scientific literature. Since 1 June 2006, global MCI composite images, at a spatial resolution of 5 km, are being produced daily from all MERIS (daylight) passes of reduced resolution (RR) data. The global composites significantly increase the area now being searched for events, although the reduced spatial resolution may cause smaller events to be missed. This paper describes the composites and gives examples of plankton bloom events that they have detected. It also shows how the composites are affected by the South Atlantic anomaly (SAA), where cosmic rays impact the detectors of the MERIS instrument.