Validation of SeaWiFS chlorophyll a in Massachusetts Bay

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Massachusetts Bay, a semi-enclosed embayment (50×100 km) in the Northwest Atlantic, is the focus of a monitoring program designed to measure the effects of relocating the Boston Harbor sewage outfall to a site 15 km offshore in Massachusetts Bay. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) in situ monitoring program samples selected stations up to 17 times per year to observe seasonal changes in phytoplankton biomass and other water quality variables. We investigated the feasibility of augmenting the monitoring data with satellite ocean color data to increase the spatial and temporal resolution of quantitative phytoplankton measurements. In coastal regions such as Massachusetts Bay, ocean color remote sensing can be complicated by in-water constituents whose concentrations vary independently of phytoplankton and by inaccurate modeling of absorbing aerosols that tend to be concentrated near the coast. An evaluation of in situ and sea-viewing wide field-of-view sensor (SeaWiFS) measurements from 1998 to 2005 demonstrated that SeaWiFS overestimated chlorophyll a mainly due to atmospheric correction errors that were amplified by absorption from elevated concentrations of chlorophyll a and colored dissolved organic matter. Negative water-leaving radiances in the 412 nm band, an obvious artifact of inadequate atmospheric correction, were recorded in approximately 60-80% of the cloud-free images along the coast, while the remaining portions of the Bay only experience negative radiances 35-55% of the time with a clear nearshore to offshore decrease in frequency. Seasonally, the greatest occurrences of negative 412 nm radiances were in November and December and the lowest were recorded during the summer months. Concentrations of suspended solids in Massachusetts Bay were low compared with other coastal regions and did not have a significant impact on SeaWiFS chlorophyll a measurements. A regional empirical algorithm was developed to correct the SeaWiFS data to agree with in situ observations. Monthly SeaWiFS composites illustrated the spatial extent of a bimodal seasonal pattern, including prominent spring and fall phytoplankton blooms; and the approximate 115 cloud-free scenes per year revealed interannual variations in the timing, magnitude and duration of phytoplankton blooms. Despite known artifacts of SeaWiFS in coastal regions, this study provided a viable chlorophyll a product in Massachusetts Bay that significantly increased the spatial and temporal synoptic coverage of phytoplankton biomass, which can be used to gain a comprehensive ecosystem-wide understanding of phytoplankton dynamics at event, seasonal and interannual timescales. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Continental Shelf Research