Ocean color is determined by spectral variations in reflectance at the sea surface. In the analytic model presented here, reflectance at the sea surface is estimated with the quasi-single-scattering approximation that ignores transspectral processes. The analytic solutions we obtained are valid for a vertically homogeneous water column. The solution provides a theoretical expression for the dimensionless, quasi-stable parameter (r), with a value of ∼0.33, that appears in many models in which reflectance at the sea surface is expressed as a function of absorption coefficient (a) and backscattering coefficient (b b). In the solution this parameter is represented as a function of the mean cosines for downwelling and upwelling irradiances and as the ratio of the upward-scattering coefficient to the backscattering coefficient. Implementation of the model is discussed for two cases: (1) that in which molecular scattering is the main source of upwelling light, and (2) that in which particle scattering is responsible for all the upwelled light. Computations for the two cases are compared with Monte Carlo simulations, which accounts for processes not considered in the analytic model (multiple scattering, and consequent depth-dependent changes in apparent optical properties). The Monte Carlo models show variations in reflectance with the zenith angle of the incident light. The analytic model can be used to reproduce these variations fairly well for the case of molecular scattering. For the particle-scattering case also, the analytic and Monte Carlo models show similar variations in r with zenith angle. However, the analytic model (as implemented here) appears to underestimate r when the value of the backscattering coefficient b b increases relative to the absorption coefficient a. The errors also vary with the zenith angle of the incident light field, with the maximum underestimate being approximately 0.06 (equivalent to relative errors from 12 to 17%) for the range of b b/a studied here. One implication of this result is that the model could also be used to obtain approximate solutions for the Q factor, defined for a given look angle as the ratio of the upwelling irradiance at the surface to the upwelling radiance at the surface at that angle. This is a quantity that is important in remote-sensing applications of ocean-color models. An advantage of the model discussed here is that its implementation requires inputs that are in principle accessible only in a remote-sensing context.
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