Remote sensing of coccolithophore blooms in the Western South Atlantic Ocean

C. W. Brownand, G. P. Podestá

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


High-reflectance patches are regularly observed off the southeastern coast of South America during the late austral spring and summer in visible satellite imagery of the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS). Unfortunately, coincident in situ samples for identifying their cause are lacking. To ascertain the likelihood that these patches represent surface blooms of the coccolitophore Emiliania huxleyi, their distribution pattern was mapped and their spectral signature evaluated by classifying CZCS imagery with a supervised, multispectral classification scheme that had been developed to detect this phytoplankton species. On the basis of the similarity of these characteristics to those of documented cases, we conclude that the high-reflectance patches observed in surface waters of the shelf and beyond are E. huxleyi blooms. The blooms seasonally occupied an area as large as 550,000 km2. Standing stock estimates indicate that the detected blooms produced an average of 1.5-4.9x105 metric tons of calcite carbon and 4.0x103 t of dimethyl sulfide sulfur. The bloom's production of these climatically relevant compounds and their alteration of optical properties in the surface layer suggest that the blossoms significantly affect the biogeochemistry and ecology of this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-91
Number of pages9
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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