Underwater optical environment in the coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada




Loos, Eduardo
Costa, Maycira
Johannessen, Sophia

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We describe the underwater light field of the Strait of Georgia in spring and summer, using apparent optical properties (reflectance, attenuation coefficient of downwelling irradiance, the average cosine of downwelling irradiance, and the attenuation of scalar irradiance). Both the attenuation and reflectance of photosynthetically available radiation (PAR; 400–700 nm) are highest in the turbid waters of the Fraser River plume, due to scattering by mainly inorganic particles and absorption by coloured dissolved organic matter, phytoplankton, and other organic particles. Light is most diffuse in the surface waters of the plume and least diffuse at depth and away from the plume. Throughout the Strait, blue and red wavelengths are attenuated most rapidly resulting in a green peak of reflectance, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that penetrates the most deeply. PAR is attenuated to 1% of its surface intensity within 6–22 m in the spring and 4–23 m in the summer. For red and blue light, the depth of 1% penetration is never deeper than 9 m. All of the visible radiation, with the exception of some green light, is absorbed within the outflowing layer (15–30 m) that is exported from the Strait with the estuarine circulation. The rapid extinction of light helps to explain the very shallow distribution of phytoplankton.



light, irradiance, apparent optical properties, reflectance, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada


Loos, E., Costa, M. & Johannessen, S. (2017). Underwater optical environment in the coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada. FACETS, 2: 872-891. http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/facets-2017-0074