Articles | Volume 6, issue 11
24 Nov 2009
 | 24 Nov 2009

The dissolved yellow substance and the shades of blue in the Mediterranean Sea

A. Morel and B. Gentili

Abstract. When the nominal algorithms commonly in use in Space Agencies are applied to satellite Ocean Color data, the retrieved chlorophyll concentrations in the Mediterranean Sea are recurrently notable overestimates of the field values. Accordingly, several regionally tuned algorithms have been proposed in the past to correct for this deviation. Actually, the blueness of the Mediterranean waters is not as deep as expected from the actual (low) chlorophyll content, and the modified algorithms account for this peculiarity. Among the possible causes for such a deviation, an excessive amount of yellow substance (or of chromophoric dissolved organic matter, CDOM) has been frequently cited. This conjecture is presently tested, by using a new technique simply based on the simultaneous consideration of marine reflectance determined at four spectral bands, namely at 412, 443, 490, and 555 nm, available on the NASA-SeaWiFS sensor (Sea–viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor). It results from this test that the concentration in yellow colored material (quantified as ay, the absorption coefficient of this material at 443 nm) is about twice that one observed in the nearby Atlantic Ocean at the same latitude. There is a strong seasonal signal, with maximal ay values in late fall and winter, an abrupt decrease beginning in spring, and then a flat minimum during the summer months, which plausibly results from the intense photo-bleaching process favored by the high level of sunshine in these areas. Systematically, the ay values, reproducible from year to year, are higher in the western basin compared with those in the eastern basin (by about 50%). The relative importance of the river discharges into this semi-enclosed sea, as well as the winter deep vertical mixing occurring in the northern parts of the basins may explain the high yellow substance background. The regionally tuned [Chl] algorithms, actually reflect the presence of an excess of CDOM with respect to its standard (Chl-related) values. When corrected for the presence of the actual CDOM content, the [Chl] values as derived via the nominal algorithms are restored to more realistic values, i.e., approximately divided by about two; the strong autumnal increase is smoothed whereas the spring bloom remains as an isolated feature.

Final-revised paper