Diurnal variability in carbon and nitrogen pools within Chesapeake Bay and northern Gulf of Mexico: implications for future ocean color satellite sensors

Antonio Mannino, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Ocean Ecology Laboratory, Greenbelt, United States, Michael G Novak, NASA Goddard Space Flight Cent, Greenbelt, MD, United States, Maria Tzortziou, CUNY City College of New York, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, New York, NY, United States and Joseph Salisbury II, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States
Relative to their areal extent, estuaries and coastal ocean ecosystems contribute disproportionately more to global biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen and other elements compared to the open ocean. Applying ocean color satellite data to study biological and biogeochemical processes within coastal ecosystems is challenging due to the complex mixtures of aquatic constituents derived from terrestrial, anthropogenic, and marine sources, human-impacted atmospheric properties, presence of clouds during satellite overpass, fine-scale spatial gradients, and time-varying processes on diurnal scales that cannot be resolved with current sensors. On diurnal scales, biological, photochemical, and biogeochemical processes are regulated by the variation in solar radiation. Other physical factors, such as tides, river discharge, estuarine and coastal ocean circulation, wind-driven mixing, etc., impart further variability on biological and biogeochemical processes on diurnal to multi-day time scales. Efforts to determine the temporal frequency required from a NASA GEO-CAPE ocean color satellite sensor to discern diurnal variability C and N stocks, fluxes and productivity culminated in field campaigns in the Chesapeake Bay and northern Gulf of Mexico. Near-surface drogues were released and tracked in quasi-lagrangian space to monitor hourly changes in community production, C and N stocks, and optical properties. While only small diurnal changes were observed in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) absorption in Chesapeake Bay, substantial variation in particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PN), chlorophyll-a, and inorganic nitrogen (DIN) were measured. Similar or greater diurnal changes in POC, PN, chlorophyll-a and DIN were found in Gulf of Mexico nearshore and offshore sites. These results suggest that satellite observations at hourly frequency are desirable to capture diurnal variability in carbon and nitrogen stocks, fluxes and productivity within coastal ecosystems.