Retrievals of a size parameter for phytoplankton and spectral light absorption by colored detrital matter from water-leaving radiances at SeaWiFS channels in a continental shelf region off Brazil

Aurea M. Ciotti,Annick Bricaud

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 4:237-253 (2006) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2006.4.237

ABSTRACT: Many efforts are currently oriented toward extracting more information from ocean color than the chlorophyll a concentration. Among biological parameters potentially accessible from space, estimates of phytoplankton cell size and light absorption by colored detrital matter (CDM) would lead to an indirect assessment of major components of the organic carbon pool in the ocean, which would benefit oceanic carbon budget models. We present here 2 procedures to retrieve simultaneously from ocean color measurements in a limited number of bands, magnitudes, and spectral shapes for both light absorption by CDM and phytoplankton, along with a size parameter for phytoplankton. The performance of the 2 procedures was evaluated using different data sets that correspond to increasing uncertainties: (1) measured absorption coefficients of phytoplankton, particulate detritus, and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and measured chlorophyll a concentrations and (2) SeaWiFS upwelling radiance measurements and chlorophyll a concentrations estimated from global algorithms. In situ data were acquired during 3 cruises, differing by their relative proportions in CDM and phytoplankton, over a continental shelf off Brazil. No local information was introduced in either procedure, to make them more generally applicable. Over the study area, the absorption coefficient of CDM at 443 nm was retrieved from SeaWiFS radiances with a relative root mean square error (RMSE) of 33%, and phytoplankton light absorption coefficients in SeaWiFS bands (from 412 to 510 nm) were retrieved with RMSEs between 28% and 33%. These results are comparable to or better than those obtained by 3 published models. In addition, a size parameter of phytoplankton and the spectral slope of CDM absorption were retrieved with RMSEs of 17% and 22%, respectively. If these methods are applied at a regional scale, the performances could be substantially improved by locally tuning some empirical relationships.