Observing the 3-Dimensional Distribution of Bio-Optical Properties of West Florida Shelf Waters Using Gliders and Autonomous Platforms
Bio-optical data, such as optical backscattering and the fluorescence, provides critical information about the marine environment and can be important variables to include in a coastal ocean observation system. Researchers at the College of Marine Science and Center for Ocean Technology at the University of South Florida have customized Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) with optical sensors and deployed the vehicles in the coastal waters of the West Florida Shelf. The vertical, spatial, and temporal measurements from these platforms complement satellite remote sensing data, which are limited to synoptic observations of near-surface waters. Recently, both bio-optical (optical backscattering, red/chlorophyll fluorescence and colored dissolved organic matter fluorescence) and light field measurements (multi-spectral downwelling irradiance and upwelling radiance) were made from customized gliders. The combination of these measurements with those from other autonomous profiling platforms (e.g. Bottom Stationed Ocean Profiler, BSOP), permits estimation of the 3-dimensional distribution of bio-optical properties. Bio-optical data gathered during recent glider deployments has clarified both the utility of optical sensors and the need for additional sensor validation efforts. Initial analysis of West Florida Shelf glider data suggests that AUVs with optical sensors can not only provide insights into the 3-dimensional distribution of water properties, but also provide unique information about the location of harmful algal blooms.