Optical determination of phytoplankton size composition from global SeaWiFS imagery

Authors

  • Colleen B. Mouw,

    1. Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA
    2. Now at Space Science Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
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  • James A. Yoder

    1. Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA
    2. Now at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA.
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Abstract

[1] Phytoplankton cell size is important to biogeochemical and food web processes. The goal of this study is to estimate phytoplankton cell size distribution from satellite imagery of spectral remote sensing reflectance (Rrs(λ)). Previous studies have indicated phytoplankton size classes have distinctive absorption spectra despite the physiological and taxonomic variability within an assemblage. For this study, the chlorophyll specific absorption spectra for phytoplankton size class extremes, pico- and microphytoplankton, are weighted by the percent microplankton (Sfm) and are the basis of phytoplankton size retrieval from SeaWiFS imagery. Satellite retrievals of Sfm are done through implementation of a forward optical model look-up table (LUT) that incorporates the range of absorption and scattering variability due to phytoplankton size, chlorophyll concentration ([Chl]) and dissolved and detrital matter (acdm(443)) in the global ocean from which Rrs(λ) is calculated by the radiative transfer software, Hydrolight. The Hydrolight modeled Rrs(λ) options for a given combination of [Chl] and acdm(443) within the LUT vary only due to Sfm. For a given pixel, the LUT search space was limited by satellite imagery of [Chl] and acdm(443). Within the narrowed search space, SeaWiFS Rrs(λ) was matched with the closest LUT Rrs(λ) option and the associated Sfm was assigned. Thresholds at which changes in Rrs(λ) due to Sfm could be discerned were established in terms of [Chl] and acdm(443). In situ high-precision liquid chromatography–derived estimates of cell size are used in conjunction with matched daily satellite estimates of Sfm for validation and agree well. A single month is displayed as an example of the Sfm retrieval.

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