Comparison of inherent optical properties as a surrogate for particulate matter concentration in coastal waters

Emmanuel Boss, Lisa Taylor, Sherryl Gilbert, Kjell Gundersen, Nathan Hawley, Carol Janzen, Tom Johengen, Heidi Purcell, Charles Robertson, Daniel W. H. Schar, G. Jason Smith, Mario N. Tamburri

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 7:803-810 (2009) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2009.7.803

ABSTRACT: Particulate matter concentration (PM, often referred to as total suspended solids [TSS]) is an important parameter in the evaluation of water quality. Several optical measurements used to provide an estimate of water turbidity have also been used to estimate PM, among them light transmission, backscattering, and side-scattering. Here we analyze such measurements performed by the Alliance for Coastal Technologies (ACT) at various coastal locations to establish whether a given optical method performs better than others for the estimation of PM. All the technologies were found to perform well, predicting PM within less than 55% relative difference for 95% of samples (n = 85, four locations). Backscattering performed best as a predictor of PM, predicting PM with less than 37% relative difference for 95% of samples. The correlation coefficient (R) was between 0.96 and 0.98 for all methods with PM data ranging between 1.2 to 82.4 g m–3. In addition, co-located measurements of backscattering and attenuation improves PM prediction and provides compositional information about the suspended particles; when their ratio is high, the bulk particulate matter is dominated by inorganic material while when low, dominated by organic material.