Ocean-Colour Radiometry: Achievements and Future Perspectives

  • Shubha Sathyendranath
  • Trevor Platt


The era of ocean-colour remote sensing may be said to have begun in 1978, with the launch of the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) by NASA. In the following three decades, ocean colour has grown in stature as a scientific field of its own, with highly valued products that find multiple uses, such as maps showing large-scale distribution of the phytoplankton pigment chlorophyll-a and secondary, derived products such as primary production by phytoplankton and new production. The in-water algorithms, which were initially mostly empirical in nature, have now been given a firm theoretical basis. The application of ocean-colour data has been extended to the so-called Case-2 waters encountered in coastal and in-shore waters where substances other than phytoplankton are known to be present in important concentrations and to vary independently of phytoplankton. This has led to the extension of the ocean-colour product line to include suspended sediments and yellow substances. Ocean-colour products have become invaluable, standard tools in studies of climate change and marine ecosystems. Yet, the field is still growing, and it may be argued that its full potential is yet to be realized. New products that are emerging include mapping of the distribution of different types of phytoplankton and their concentrations. As the length of the ocean-colour record is growing, it is being used increasingly to develop ecological indicators, for example to quantify phytoplankton phenology and inter-annual variations in it. Applications of the products are growing, to include fisheries and ecosystem-based management of marine resources.


Atmospheric Correction Ocean Colour High Spectral Resolution Satellite Sensor Yellow Substance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the Canadian Space Agency through its GRIP and EOPI programmes, and by NERC (UK) through its 2025 and NCEO programmes. We thank Vittorio Barale for all his patience as the editor, and Nicolas Hoepffner for his helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plymouth Marine LaboratoryPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Dalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Coastal Oceran SciencesBedford Institute of OceanographyDartmouthCanada

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