Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Frank E. Müller-Karger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kendall Carder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chuamin Hu, Ph.D.


Ocean Color, Bio-optical Properties, Chlorophyll, CDOM, TSM


In situ measurements were used to study the bio-optical properties of marine waters within the Gulf of Paria (GOP, Venezuela) and in the Southeastern Caribbean Sea (SEC) as they are affected by the seasonal discharge of the Orinoco River plume. The main purpose of this study was to determine the impact of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) (also known as Gelbstoff), phytoplankton, and total suspended matter (TSM) in the color of the Orinoco River plume. This information is essential for regional ocean color algorithms development.

Salinity and silica values indicate that the GOP and SEC waters were under the influence of the Orinoco River plume during both seasons. This riverine influence resulted in high values of Gelbstoff absorption, αg(λ), which contributed to up to 90% of the total absorption at 440 nm in both the GOP and SEC regardless of the season. Phytoplankton absorption contributions were normally around 5%, but during the dry season these values reached 20% in the SEC. Ratios of αg(440) to αph(440) were extremely large, with most of the values ranging from 10 to 50.

Due to the strong absorption by Gelbstoff, light at the blue wavelengths (412 nm, 440 nm and 490 nm) was attenuated to 1% of the subsurface irradiance in the first 5 m of the water column within the GOP, and in the first 10 m of the water column in the SEC. Furthermore, the absorption by Gelbstoff significantly decreased the water leaving radiance (Lw(λ)) in the blue wavelengths along the Orinoco River plume. As αg(λ) relatively decreased from the GOP to the SEC (X≈1.6 m-1 and X≈ 0.9 m-1, respectively), a shift in the maximum peak of Rrs(λ) spectra (Rrsmax(λ)), towards shorter wavelengths (from ~ 580 nm to ~500 nm) was observed.

Similar to Gelbstoff, concentrations of TSM normally decreased from the stations near the Delta to the stations in the SEC. The impact of TSM on the color of the Orinoco plume was represented by a reduction in the magnitude of Rrsmax(λ) of ~50% going from the waters near the Orinoco delta to the SEC, indistinctively of the season.