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Geophysical Research Letters

Space-based lidar measurements of global ocean carbon stocks

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Abstract

[1] Global ocean phytoplankton biomass (Cphyto) and total particulate organic carbon (POC) stocks have largely been characterized from space using passive ocean color measurements. A space-based light detection and ranging (lidar) system can provide valuable complementary observations for Cphyto and POC assessments, with benefits including day-night sampling, observations through absorbing aerosols and thin cloud layers, and capabilities for vertical profiling through the water column. Here we use measurements from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) to quantify global Cphyto and POC from retrievals of subsurface particulate backscatter coefficients (bbp). CALIOP bbp data compare favorably with airborne, ship-based, and passive ocean data and yield global average mixed-layer standing stocks of 0.44 Pg C for Cphyto and 1.9 Pg for POC. CALIOP-based Cphyto and POC data exhibit global distributions and seasonal variations consistent with ocean plankton ecology. Our findings support the use of spaceborne lidar measurements for advancing understanding of global plankton systems.

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