Optics of the offshore Columbia River plume from glider observations and satellite imagery

TitleOptics of the offshore Columbia River plume from glider observations and satellite imagery
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsSaldías, GS, R. Shearman, K, Barth, JA, Tufillaro, N
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The Columbia River (CR) is the largest source of freshwater along the U.S. Pacific coast. The resultant plume is often transported southward and offshore forming a large buoyant feature off Oregon and northern California in spring-summer—the offshore CR plume. Observations from autonomous underwater gliders and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite imagery are used to characterize the optics of the offshore CR plume off Newport, Oregon. Vertical sections, under contrasting river flow conditions, reveal a low-salinity and warm surface layer of ∼20–25 m (fresher in spring and warmer in summer), high Colored Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) concentration, and backscatter, and associated with the base of the plume high chlorophyll fluorescence. Plume characteristics vary in the offshore direction as the warm and fresh surface layer thickens progressively to an average 30–40 m of depth 270–310 km offshore; CDOM, backscatter, and chlorophyll fluorescence decrease in the upper 20 m and increase at subsurface levels (30–50 m depth). MODIS normalized water-leaving radiance (nLw(λ)) spectra for CR plume cases show enhanced water-leaving radiance at green bands (as compared to no-CR plume cases) up to ∼154 km from shore. Farther offshore, the spectral shapes for both cases are very similar, and consequently, a contrasting color signature of low-salinity plume water is practically imperceptible from ocean color remote sensing. Empirical algorithms based on multivariate regression analyses of nLw(λ) plus SST data produce more accurate results detecting offshore plume waters than previous studies using single visible bands (e.g., adg(412) or nLw(555)).


Coastal Endurance