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Ocean color algorithm for the retrieval of the particle size distribution and carbon-based phytoplankton size classes using a two-component coated-spheres backscattering model

Kostadinov, T. S., Robertson Lain, L., Kong, C. E., Zhang, X., Maritorena, S., Bernard, S., Loisel, H., Jorge, D. S.F., Kochetkova, E., Roy, S. ORCID:, Jonsson, B., Martinez-Vicente, V. and Sathyendranath, S. (2023) Ocean color algorithm for the retrieval of the particle size distribution and carbon-based phytoplankton size classes using a two-component coated-spheres backscattering model. Ocean Science, 19 (3). pp. 703-727. ISSN 1812-0792

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/os-19-703-2023


The particle size distribution (PSD) of suspended particles in near-surface seawater is a key property linking biogeochemical and ecosystem characteristics with optical properties that affect ocean color remote sensing. Phytoplankton size affects their physiological characteristics and ecosystem and biogeochemical roles, e.g., in the biological carbon pump, which has an important role in the global carbon cycle and thus climate. It is thus important to develop capabilities for measurement and predictive understanding of the structure and function of oceanic ecosystems, including the PSD, phytoplankton size classes (PSCs), and phytoplankton functional types (PFTs). Here, we present an ocean color satellite algorithm for the retrieval of the parameters of an assumed power-law PSD. The forward optical model considers two distinct particle populations: phytoplankton and non-algal particles (NAPs). Phytoplankton are modeled as coated spheres following the Equivalent Algal Populations (EAP) framework, and NAPs are modeled as homogeneous spheres. The forward model uses Mie and Aden–Kerker scattering computations, for homogeneous and coated spheres, respectively, to model the total particulate spectral backscattering coefficient as the sum of phytoplankton and NAP backscattering. The PSD retrieval is achieved via spectral angle mapping (SAM), which uses backscattering end-members created by the forward model. The PSD is used to retrieve size-partitioned absolute and fractional phytoplankton carbon concentrations (i.e., carbon-based PSCs), as well as particulate organic carbon (POC), using allometric coefficients. This model formulation also allows the estimation of chlorophyll a concentration via the retrieved PSD, as well as percent of backscattering due to NAPs vs. phytoplankton. The PSD algorithm is operationally applied to the merged Ocean Colour Climate Change Initiative (OC-CCI) v5.0 ocean color data set. Results of an initial validation effort are also presented using PSD, POC, and picophytoplankton carbon in situ measurements. Validation results indicate the need for an empirical tuning for the absolute phytoplankton carbon concentrations; however these results and comparison with other phytoplankton carbon algorithms are ambiguous as to the need for the tuning. The latter finding illustrates the continued need for high-quality, consistent, large global data sets of PSD, phytoplankton carbon, and related variables to facilitate future algorithm improvements.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:111610
Publisher:European Geosciences Union


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