Document Type


Publication Title

Optics Express


Empirically-based satellite estimates of chlorophyll a [Chl] (e.g. OC3) are an important indicator of phytoplankton biomass. To correctly interpret [Chl] variability, estimates must be accurate and sources of algorithm errors known. While the underlying assumptions of band ratio algorithms such as OC3 have been tacitly hypothesized (i.e. CDOM and phytoplankton absorption covary), the influence of component absorption and scattering on the shape of the algorithm and estimated [Chl] error has yet to be explicitly revealed. We utilized the NOMAD bio-optical data set to examine variations between satellite estimated [Chl] and in situ values. We partitioned the variability into (a) signal contamination and (b) natural phytoplankton variability (variability in chlorophyll-specific phytoplankton absorption). Not surprisingly, the OC3 best-fit curve resulted from a balance between these two different sources of variation confirming the bias by detrital absorption on global scale. Unlike previous descriptions of empirical [Chl] algorithms, our study (a) quantified the mean detrital:phytoplankton absorption as ~1:1in the global NOMAD data set, and (b) removed detrital (CDOM + non-algal particle) absorption in radiative transfer models directly showing that the scale of the remaining variability in the band ratio algorithm was dominated by phytoplankton absorption cross section. © 2012 Optical Society of America.

First Page


Last Page




Publication Date