PerspectiveOcean Science

The Many Shades of Ocean Blue

Science  28 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5650, pp. 1514-1515
DOI: 10.1126/science.1092704

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For more than 20 years, ocean color remote sensing has been used to estimate phytoplankton content in oceanic waters. In their Perspective, Claustre and Maritorena explain that, beside phytoplankton, many factors--from dust to bubbles--are responsible for variations in ocean color. These various components that affect ocean color are not taken into account appropriately in existing empirical models used to study ocean color from space. For example, in the blue waters of the South Pacific gyre, Dandonneau et al. have identified hotspots of green waters that do not seem to be associated with enhanced phytoplankton biomass but may be caused by the accumulation of detrital products of marine life by physical processes.