Towards a merged satellite and in situ fluorescence ocean chlorophyll product
Abstract. Understanding the ocean carbon cycle requires a precise assessment of phytoplankton biomass in the oceans. In terms of numbers of observations, satellite data represent the largest available data set. However, as they are limited to surface waters, they have to be merged with in situ observations. Amongst the in situ data, fluorescence profiles constitute the greatest data set available, because fluorometers have operated routinely on oceanographic cruises since the 1970s. Nevertheless, fluorescence is only a proxy of the total chlorophyll a concentration and a data calibration is required. Calibration issues are, however, sources of uncertainty, and they have prevented a systematic and wide range exploitation of the fluorescence data set. In particular, very few attempts to standardize the fluorescence databases have been made. Consequently, merged estimations with other data sources (e.g. satellite) are lacking.
We propose a merging method to fill this gap. It consists firstly in adjusting the fluorescence profile to impose a zero chlorophyll a concentration at depth. Secondly, each point of the fluorescence profile is then multiplied by a correction coefficient, which forces the chlorophyll a integrated content measured on the fluorescence profile to be consistent with the concomitant ocean colour observation. The method is close to the approach proposed by Boss et al. (2008) to correct fluorescence data of a profiling float, although important differences do exist. To develop and test our approach, in situ data from three open ocean stations (BATS, HOT and DYFAMED) were used. Comparison of the so-called "satellite-corrected" fluorescence profiles with concomitant bottle-derived estimations of chlorophyll a concentration was performed to evaluate the final error (estimated at 31%). Comparison with the Boss et al. (2008) method, using a subset of the DYFAMED data set, demonstrated that the methods have similar accuracy. The method was applied to two different data sets to demonstrate its utility. Using fluorescence profiles at BATS, we show that the integration of "satellite-corrected" fluorescence profiles in chlorophyll a climatologies could improve both the statistical relevance of chlorophyll a averages and the vertical structure of the chlorophyll a field. We also show that our method could be efficiently used to process, within near-real time, profiles obtained by a fluorometer deployed on autonomous platforms, in our case a bio-optical profiling float. The application of the proposed method should provide a first step towards the generation of a merged satellite/fluorescence chlorophyll a product, as the "satellite-corrected" profiles should then be consistent with satellite observations. Improved climatologies with more consistent satellite and in situ data are likely to enhance the performance of present biogeochemical models.