Optical observations of ocean ecosystems

Observations in the ocean are key understanding the ocean carbon cycle and ecosystem dynamics, but they are very scarce in the vast open ocean. Therefore AMT scientists have been working devise methods to estimate ocean carbon cycle and ecosystem variables by exploiting optical observations as these are relatively easy to collect either from ships or from space.

Optical sensors can be installed on autonomous platforms, such as gliders and profiling floats, and greatly extend the temporal and vertical coverage of biogeochemical observations. During AMT cruises we are deploying our own floats as well as those from collaborators.

In addition, our work on AMT has recently attracted the attention of NASA scientists. Since the ocean covers 70% of the globe, several NASA satellites are dedicated to the observation of ocean biology, biogeochemistry and physics. By collecting precious sea-truth optical measurements, we have supported the testing of a novel sensor developed by NASA scientists. This sensor (called LIDAR) is similar to a radar, but uses optical laser pulses to determine the vertical distribution of particles in the upper water column. This is important because the vertical distribution of particles is influenced by and, thus, can reveal information on the fundamental physical processes that mix the upper ocean.

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Related Information

NASA Langley airborne High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL)
Oceanographic Autonomous Observations Interactive Map of glider and profiling float deployments


Dr Giorgio Dall'Olmo

Dr Giorgio Dall'Olmo

Earth Observation Scientist - carbon cycle and in situ optics