Marine Science Faculty Publications

Ocean color reveals phase shift between marine plants and yellow substance

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Oceans, Marine vegetation, Absorption, Pigmentation, Image sensors, Degradation, Remote sensing, Springs, Sea measurements, Sensor phenomena and characterization

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Daily high-resolution Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) images of the central North Atlantic Ocean (1998-2003) show that temporal changes in the absorption coefficient of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) or "yellow substance" follow changes in phytoplankton pigment absorption coefficient in time. CDOM peaks (between January and March) and troughs (late summer and fall) followed pigment peaks and troughs by approximately two and four weeks, respectively. This phase shift is additional strong evidence that CDOM in the marine environment is derived from phytoplankton degradation. The common assumption of linear covariation between chlorophyll and CDOM is a simplification even in this ocean gyre. Due to the temporal changes in CDOM, chlorophyll concentration estimated based on traditional remote sensing band-ratio algorithms may be overestimated by about 10% during the spring bloom and underestimated by a similar 10% during the fall. These observations are only possible through use of synoptic, precise, accurate, and frequent measurements afforded by space-based sensors because in situ technologies cannot provide the required sensitivity or synoptic coverage to observe these natural phenomena.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, v. 3, issue 2, p. 262-266