During the passage of a cold front in March 2002, bio-optical properties examined in coastal waters impacted by the Mississippi River indicated that westward advective flows and increasing river discharge containing high concentrations of nonalgal particles contributed significantly to surface optical variability. A comparison of seasonal data from three cruises indicated spectral models of absorption and scattering to be generally consistent with other coastal environments, while their parameterization in terms of chlorophyll (Chl) a concentration showed seasonal variability. The exponential slope of the colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) averaged and nonalgal absorption averaged 0.011 nm−1 with deviations from general trends observed due to anomalous water properties. Although the phytoplankton specific absorption coefficients varied over a wide range [0.02 to at ] being higher in offshore surface waters, values of phytoplankton absorption spectra at the Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) wave bands were highly correlated to modeled values. Particulate scattering characteristics were similar to observations for other coastal waters, while backscattering ratios were on average lower in phytoplankton-dominated surface waters and higher in low Chl near-bottom waters . Average percent differences in remote sensing reflectance derived from modeled and in-water radiometric measurements were highest in the blue wave bands and at locations with more stratified water columns. SeaWiFS estimates of Chl and CDOM absorption derived using regional empirical algorithms were highly correlated to in situ data.
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