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Impact of inter-mission differences and drifts on chlorophyll-a trend estimates

Mélin, F.
International journal of remote sensing 2016 v.37 no.10 pp. 2233-2251
chlorophyll, climate, color, moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer, regression analysis, remote sensing, satellites, time series analysis
The chlorophyll- a (chl- a) concentration is an Essential Climate Variable, and the study of its variability at global scale requires a succession of satellite ocean colour missions to cover a period suitable for climate research. In the context of a multi-mission data record, inter-mission differences can introduce artefacts affecting trend evaluations, and the impact of the bias between the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) chl- a products is shown to be significant in a substantial part of the ocean. The assessment of trends can also be directly impacted by a drift in the chl- a time series resulting from sensor functions. These issues are addressed by a sensitivity analysis that compares slopes of linear regression obtained for varying levels of inter-mission bias and drift with respect to a 15-year reference series built with SeaWiFS and MODIS data. The relationship, constructed for a representative set of ocean provinces, between bias and the level of significance associated with the comparison of slopes shows that a bias on the order of ±5–6% generally induces a slope that is significantly different from the reference case, while a threshold on bias values not exceeding 2% largely alleviates this effect. Moreover, the study suggests that a drift larger than 2% per decade on the chl- a series can result in misleading conclusions from a trend analysis. All results have a clear regional dependence that needs to be taken into account in bias-correction and merging efforts. Low chl- a regions, such as the oligotrophic subtropical gyres, appear particularly sensitive to perturbations and require still higher levels of consistency and stability.