Current atmospheric correction and aerosol retrieval algorithms for ocean color sensors use measurements of the top-of-the-atmosphere reflectance in the near infrared, where the contribution from the ocean is known for case 1 waters, to assess the aerosol optical properties. Such measurements are incapable of distinguishing between weakly and strongly absorbing aerosols, and the atmospheric correction and aerosol retrieval algorithms fail if the incorrect absorption properties of the aerosol are assumed. We present an algorithm that appears promising for the retrieval of in-water biophysical properties and aerosol optical properties in atmospheres containing both weakly and strongly absorbing aerosols. By using the entire spectrum available to most ocean color instruments (412–865 nm), we simultaneously recover the ocean’s bio-optical properties and a set of aerosol models that best describes the aerosol optical properties. The algorithm is applied to simulated situations that are likely to occur off the U.S. East Coast in summer when the aerosols could be of the locally generated weakly absorbing Maritime type or of the pollution-generated strongly absorbing urban-type transported over the ocean by the winds. The simulations show that the algorithm behaves well in an atmosphere with either weakly or strongly absorbing aerosol. The algorithm successfully identifies absorbing aerosols and provides close values for the aerosol optical thickness. It also provides excellent retrievals of the ocean bio-optical properties. The algorithm uses a bio-optical model of case 1 waters and a set of aerosol models for its operation. The relevant parameters of both the ocean and atmosphere are systematically varied to find the best (in a rms sense) fit to the measured top-of-the-atmosphere spectral reflectance. Examples are provided that show the algorithm’s performance in the presence of errors, e.g., error in the contribution from whitecaps and error in radiometric calibration.
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