Marine Science Faculty Publications


Inherent and Apparent Optical Properties of the Complex Estuarine Waters of Tampa Bay: What Controls Light?

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inherent optical properties, apparent optical properties, absorption, scattering, diffuse attenuation, optical water quality, remote sensing, Tampa Bay

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Inherent and apparent optical properties (IOPs and AOPs) of Tampa Bay (Florida, USA) were measured during fourteen cruises between February 1998 and October 2010 to understand how these properties relate to one another and what controls light absorption and diffuse attenuation in this moderately sized (∼1000 km2), shallow estuary (average depth ∼4 m). The IOPs and AOPs included: 1) absorption coefficients of three optically significant constituents: phytoplankton pigments, detrital particles, and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM); 2) particulate backscattering coefficients; 3) chlorophyll-a concentrations; 4) above-water remote sensing reflectance; 5) downwelling diffuse attenuation coefficients (Kd) at eight wavelengths and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). Results showed substantial variability in all IOPs and AOPs in both space and time, with most IOPs spanning more than two orders of magnitude and showing strong co-variations. Of all four bay segments, Old Tampa Bay showed unique optical characteristics. During the wet season, the magnitude of blue–green-light absorption was dominated by CDOM, while during the dry season all three constituents contributed significantly. However, the variability in Kd (PAR, 490 nm, 555 nm) was driven mainly by the variability of detrital particles and phytoplankton as opposed to CDOM. This observation explained, at least to first order, why a nutrient reduction management strategy used by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program since the 1990s led to improved water clarity in most of Tampa Bay. The findings of this study provided the optical basis to fine tune existing or develop new algorithms to estimate the various optical water quality parameters from space.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, v. 117, p. 54-69