In recent years commercial sensors for in situ determinations of optical backscattering coefficient, bb, have become available. The small size and low power requirements of these sensors permit deployment from small sensing platforms such as autonomous underwater vehicles, in addition to standard profiling packages. Given their rapid sampling time (sub second) they can collect data with high temporal and spatial resolution (sub meter).
While these are attractive features of any sensor they do not answer the question: why should oceanographers measure bb?
The short answer is that bb carries useful information about seawater constituents that scatter light. The potential to derive information about the abundance and the types of suspended marine particles, which play different roles in ocean ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling, is particularly attractive. To first order, the bb coefficient is a proxy for particle abundance but it also depends significantly on particle size distribution and particle composition, for example, on relative proportions of small and larger particles or on whether the particles are organic or inorganic. Most importantly, however, the spectral reflectance of the ocean (known as ocean color) is, to first order, proportional to bb. The measurements of ocean color from remote optical sensors on satellites provide a unique capability to monitor surface ocean properties (e.g., chlorophyll concentration and biological primary productivity) over extended spatial and temporal scales. Measurements and fundamental understanding of bb are required for understanding and successful applications of remotely sensed ocean color.
Boss, Emmanuel; Stramski, Dariusz; Bergmann, Trisha; Scott Pegau, W.; and Lewis, Marlon, "Why should we measure the optical backscattering coefficient?" (2004). Marine Sciences Faculty Scholarship. 156.
This article was published in Oceanography, Vol. 17, No. 2, a quarterly journal of The Oceanography Society.
© 2004 The Oceanography Society
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