National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Remote Sensing of Environment 114 (2010) 2403–2416; doi:10.1016/j.rse.2010.05.015


Phytoplankton pigments constitute many more compounds than chlorophyll a that can be applied to study phytoplankton diversity, populations, and primary production. In this study, field measurements were applied to develop ocean color satellite algorithms of phytoplankton pigments from in-water radiometry measurements. The match-up comparisons showed that the satellite-derived pigments from our algorithms agree reasonably well (e.g. 30–55% of uncertainty for SeaWiFS and 37–50% for MODIS-Aqua) to field data, with better agreement (e.g. 30–38% of uncertainty for SeaWiFS and 39–44% for MODIS-Aqua) for pigments abundant in diatoms. The seasonal and spatial variations of satellite-derived phytoplankton biomarker pigments, such as fucoxanthin, which is abundant in diatoms, peridinin, which is found only in peridinincontaining dinoflagellates, and zeaxanthin, which is primarily from cyanobacteria in coastal waters, revealed that higher densities of diatoms are more likely to occur on the inner shelf and during winter–spring and obscure other abundant phytoplankton groups. However, relatively higher densities of other phytoplankton, such as dinoflagellates and cyanobacteria, are likely to occur on the mid- to outer-continental shelf and during summer. Seasonal variation of riverine discharge may play an important role in stimulating algal blooms, in particular diatoms, while higher abundances of cyanobacteria coincide with warmer water temperatures and lower nutrient concentrations.