Marine Science Faculty Publications

Short-Term Variability of Suspended Sediment and Phytoplankton in Tampa Bay, Florida: Observations from a Coastal Oceanographic Tower and Ocean Color Satellites

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short-term variability, phytoplankton, sediment, remote sensing, bio-optic sensors, U.S.A, . Florida, Tampa Bay

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We examined short-term phytoplankton and sediment dynamics in Tampa Bay with data collected between 8 December 2004 and 17 January 2005 from optical, oceanographic, and meteorological sensors mounted on a coastal oceanographic tower and from satellite remote sensing. Baseline phytoplankton (chlorophyll-a, Chl) and sediment concentrations (particle backscattering coefficient at 532 nm, bbp(532)) were of the order of 3.7 mg m−3 and 0.07 m−1, respectively, during the study period. Both showed large fluctuations dominated by semidiurnal and diurnal frequencies associated with tidal forcing. Three strong wind events (hourly averaged wind speed > 8.0 m s−1) generated critical bottom shear stress of > 0.2 Pa and suspended bottom sediments that were clearly observed in concurrent MODIS satellite imagery. In addition, strong tidal current or swells could also suspend sediments in the lower Bay. Sediments remained suspended in the water column for 2–3 days after the wind events. Moderate Chl increases were observed after sediment resuspension with a lag time of ˜1–2 days, probably due to release of bottom nutrients and optimal light conditions associated with sediment resuspension and settling. Two large increases in Chl with one Chl > 12.0 mg m−3 over ˜2 days, were observed at neap tides. For the study site and period, because of the high temporal variability in phytoplankton and sediment concentrations, a monthly snapshot can be different by −50% to 200% from the monthly “mean” chlorophyll and sediment conditions. The combination of high-frequency observations from automated sensors and synoptic satellite imagery, when available, is an excellent complement to limited field surveys to study and monitor water quality parameters in estuarine environments.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, v. 89, issue 1, p. 62-72