The hidden influence of large particles on ocean colour

Davies, Emlyn J. and Basedow, Sünnje L. and McKee, David (2021) The hidden influence of large particles on ocean colour. Scientific Reports, 11 (1). 3999. ISSN 2045-2322 (

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Optical constituents in the ocean are often categorized as water, phytoplankton, sediments and dissolved matter. However, the optical properties of seawater are influenced, to some degree, by scattering and absorption by all particles in the water column. Here we assess the relevant size ranges for determining the optical properties of the ocean. We present a theoretical basis supporting the hypothesis that millimetre-size particles, including zooplankton and fish eggs, can provide a significant contribution to bulk absorption and scattering of seawater and therefore ocean color. Further, we demonstrate that existing in situ instruments are not capable of correctly resolving the impact of such large particles, possibly leading to their optical significance being overlooked. These findings refresh our perspective on the potential of ocean color and invite new applications of remote sensing for monitoring life close to the ocean surface.