Flagging optically shallow pixels for improved analysis of ocean color data

Lachlan Ian William McKinna1,2, Jeremy Werdell2 and Daniel Knowles Jr.1, (1)Science Applications International Corporation, McLean, VA, United States, (2)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
Ocean color remote-sensing is routinely used to derive marine geophysical parameters from sensor-observed water-leaving radiances. However, in clear geometrically shallow regions, traditional ocean color algorithms can be confounded by light reflected from the seafloor. Such regions are typically referred to as “optically shallow”. When performing spatiotemporal analyses of ocean color datasets, optically shallow features such as coral reefs can lead to unexpected regional biases. Benthic contamination of the water-leaving radiance is dependent on bathymetry, water clarity and seafloor albedo. Thus, a prototype ocean color processing flag called OPTSHAL has been developed that takes all three variables into account. In the method described here, the optical depth of the water column at 547 nm, ζ(547), is predicted from known bathymetry and estimated inherent optical properties. If ζ(547) is less then the pre-defined threshold, a pixel is flagged as optically shallow. Radiative transfer modeling was used to identify the appropriate threshold value of ζ(547) for a generic benthic sand albedo. OPTSHAL has been evaluated within the NASA Ocean Biology Processing Group’s L2GEN code. Using MODIS Aqua imagery, OPTSHAL was tested in two regions: (i) the Pedro Bank south-west of Jamaica, and (ii) the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. It is anticipated that OPTSHAL will benefit end-users when quality controlling derived ocean color products. Further, OPTSHAL may prove useful as a mechanism for switching between optically deep and shallow algorithms during ocean color processing.