Spectral reflectance of whitecaps: Instrumentation, calibration, and performance in coastal waters

Karl D. Moore, Kenneth J. Voss, Howard R. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


A measurement system for determining the spectral reflectance of whitecaps in the open ocean is described. The upwelling radiance is obtained from a ship by observing a small region of the water surface over time using a six-channel radiometer (410, 440, 510, 550, 670, and 860 nm) extended from the bow of the ship. Downwelling irradiance is simultaneously measured and used to provide surface reflectance. The system includes a TV camera mounted beside the radiometer that provides a visual reference of surface events. Air/water temperature and wind speed/direction are also measured along with global positioning system data. Calibration procedures and radiometric characterization of the system for operation under different sky conditions and solar zenith angles are emphasized so that full advantage is taken of ship time whenever whitecap events occur. The radiometer was operated at sea and examples of the spectral reflectance of different foam types (thick foam layers to thin residual patches) generated by the ship's bow in coastal waters are presented and found to vary spectrally. The presence of submerged bubbles in the foam measurement results in a lower reflectance at the longer wavelengths. For wavebands in the visible region, the spectral reflectance values tend to equalize with higher reflecting foam from thicker foam layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-509
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


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