Abstract

In this study, we report on the performance of satellite-based photosynthetically available radiation (PAR) algorithms used in published oceanic primary production models. The performance of these algorithms was evaluated using buoy observations under clear and cloudy skies, and for the particular case of low sun angles typically encountered at high latitudes or at moderate latitudes in winter. The PAR models consisted of (i) the standard one from the NASA-Ocean Biology Processing Group (OBPG), (ii) the Gregg and Carder (GC) semi-analytical clear-sky model, and (iii) look-up-tables based on the Santa Barbara DISORT atmospheric radiative transfer (SBDART) model. Various combinations of atmospheric inputs, empirical cloud corrections, and semi-analytical irradiance models yielded a total of 13 (11 + 2 developed in this study) different PAR products, which were compared with in situ measurements collected at high frequency (15 min) at a buoy site in the Mediterranean Sea (the “BOUée pour l’acquiSition d’une Série Optique à Long termE,” or, “BOUSSOLE” site). An objective ranking method applied to the algorithm results indicated that seven PAR products out of 13 were well in agreement with the in situ measurements. Specifically, the OBPG method showed the best overall performance with a root mean square difference (RMSD) (bias) of 19.7% (6.6%) and 10% (6.3%) followed by the look-up-table method with a RMSD (bias) of 25.5% (6.8%) and 9.6% (2.6%) at daily and monthly scales, respectively. Among the four methods based on clear-sky PAR empirically corrected for cloud cover, the Dobson and Smith method consistently underestimated daily PAR while the Budyko formulation overestimated daily PAR. Empirically cloud-corrected methods using cloud fraction (CF) performed better under quasi-clear skies (CF<0.3) with an RMSD (bias) of 9.7%–14.8% (3.6%–11.3%) than under partially clear to cloudy skies (0.3<CF<0.7) with 16.1%–21.2% (2.2%8.8%). Under complete overcast conditions (CF>0.7), however, all methods showed larger RMSD differences (biases) ranging between 32% and 80.6% (54.5%8.7%). Finally, three methods tested for low sun elevations revealed systematic overestimation, and one method showed a systematic underestimation of daily PAR, with relative RMSDs as large as 50% under all sky conditions. Under partially clear to overcast conditions all the methods underestimated PAR. Model uncertainties predominantly depend on which cloud products were used.

© 2018 Optical Society of America

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