Articles | Volume 13, issue 23
Research article
 | Highlight paper
07 Dec 2016
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 07 Dec 2016

Use of remote-sensing reflectance to constrain a data assimilating marine biogeochemical model of the Great Barrier Reef

Emlyn M. Jones, Mark E. Baird, Mathieu Mongin, John Parslow, Jenny Skerratt, Jenny Lovell, Nugzar Margvelashvili, Richard J. Matear, Karen Wild-Allen, Barbara Robson, Farhan Rizwi, Peter Oke, Edward King, Thomas Schroeder, Andy Steven, and John Taylor

Abstract. Skillful marine biogeochemical (BGC) models are required to understand a range of coastal and global phenomena such as changes in nitrogen and carbon cycles. The refinement of BGC models through the assimilation of variables calculated from observed in-water inherent optical properties (IOPs), such as phytoplankton absorption, is problematic. Empirically derived relationships between IOPs and variables such as chlorophyll-a concentration (Chl a), total suspended solids (TSS) and coloured dissolved organic matter (CDOM) have been shown to have errors that can exceed 100 % of the observed quantity. These errors are greatest in shallow coastal regions, such as the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), due to the additional signal from bottom reflectance. Rather than assimilate quantities calculated using IOP algorithms, this study demonstrates the advantages of assimilating quantities calculated directly from the less error-prone satellite remote-sensing reflectance (RSR). To assimilate the observed RSR, we use an in-water optical model to produce an equivalent simulated RSR and calculate the mismatch between the observed and simulated quantities to constrain the BGC model with a deterministic ensemble Kalman filter (DEnKF). The traditional assumption that simulated surface Chl a is equivalent to the remotely sensed OC3M estimate of Chl a resulted in a forecast error of approximately 75 %. We show this error can be halved by instead using simulated RSR to constrain the model via the assimilation system. When the analysis and forecast fields from the RSR-based assimilation system are compared with the non-assimilating model, a comparison against independent in situ observations of Chl a, TSS and dissolved inorganic nutrients (NO3, NH4 and DIP) showed that errors are reduced by up to 90 %. In all cases, the assimilation system improves the simulation compared to the non-assimilating model. Our approach allows for the incorporation of vast quantities of remote-sensing observations that have in the past been discarded due to shallow water and/or artefacts introduced by terrestrially derived TSS and CDOM or the lack of a calibrated regional IOP algorithm.

Short summary
Marine biogeochemical models are often used to understand water quality, nutrient and blue-carbon dynamics at scales that range from estuaries and bays, through to the global ocean. We introduce a new methodology allowing for the assimilation of observed remote sensing reflectances, avoiding the need to use empirically derived chlorophyll-a concentrations. This method opens up the possibility to assimilate of reflectances from a variety of missions and potentially non-satellite platforms.
Final-revised paper