From In Situ to satellite observations of pelagic Sargassum distribution and aggregation in the Tropical North Atlantic Ocean

Abstract : The present study reports on observations carried out in the Tropical North Atlantic in summer and autumn 2017, documenting Sargassum aggregations using both ship-deck observations and satellite sensor observations at three resolutions (MSI-10 m, OLCI-300 m, VIIRS-750 m and MODIS-1 km). Both datasets reported that in summer, Sargassum aggre-gations were mainly observed off Brazil and near the Caribbean Islands, while they accumulated near the African coast in autumn. Based on in situ observations, we propose a five-class typology allowing standardisation of the description of in situ Sargassum raft shapes and sizes. The most commonly observed Sargassum raft type was windrows, but large rafts composed of a quasi-circular patch hundreds of meters wide were also observed. Satellite imagery showed that these rafts formed larger Sargassum aggregations over a wide range of scales, with smaller aggregations (of tens of m 2 area) nested within larger ones (of hundreds of km 2). Match-ups between different satellite sensors and in situ observations were limited for this dataset, mainly because of high cloud cover during the periods of observation. Nevertheless, comparisons between the two datasets showed that satellite sensors successfully detected Sargassum abundance and aggregation patterns consistent with in situ observations. MODIS and VIIRS sensors were better suited to describing the Sargas-sum aggregation distribution and dynamics at Atlantic scale, while the new sensors, OLCI and MSI, proved their ability to detect Sargassum aggregations and to describe their (sub-) mesoscale nested structure. The high variability in raft shape, size, thickness, depth and biomass density observed in situ means that caution is called for when using satellite maps of Sargassum distribution and biomass estimation. Improvements would require additional in situ and airborne observations or very high-resolution satellite imagery.
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Anouck Ody, Thierry Thibaut, L. Berline, Thomas Changeux, Jean-Michel André, et al.. From In Situ to satellite observations of pelagic Sargassum distribution and aggregation in the Tropical North Atlantic Ocean. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2019, 14 (9), pp.e0222584. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0222584⟩. ⟨hal-02291680⟩

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