A radiative transfer model was applied to examine the effects of vertically stratified inherent optical properties of the water column associated with near-surface plumes of suspended particulate matter on spectral remote-sensing reflectance, , of coastal marine environments. The simulations for nonuniform ocean consisting of two layers with different concentrations of suspended particulate matter (SPM) are compared with simulations for a reference homogeneous ocean whose SPM is identical to the surface SPM of the two-layer cases. The near-surface plumes of particles are shown to exert significant influence on . The sensitivity of to vertical profile of SPM is dependent on the optical beam attenuation coefficient within the top layer, , thickness of the top layer, , and the ratio of SPM in the underlying layer to that in the top layer, , as well as the wavelength of light, . We defined a dimensionless spectral parameter, , to quantify and examine the effects of these characteristics of the two-layer profile of SPM on the magnitude and spectral shape of . In general, the difference of between the two-layer and uniform ocean decreases to zero with an increase in . For the interpretation of ocean color measurements of water column influenced by near-surface plumes of particles, another dimensionless parameter was introduced, which is a product of terms representing homogenous ocean and a change caused by the two-layer structure of SPM. Based on the analysis of this parameter, we found that for the two-layer ocean there is a good relationship between in the red and near-infrared spectral regions and the parameters describing the profile, i.e., , , and .
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