Exploratory study of the Sentinel-3 level 2 product for monitoring chlorophyll-a and assessing ecological status in Danish seas

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In situ Chl-a data were used to perform empirical calibration and validation of Sentinel-3 level 2 product in Danish marine waters. Comparing in situ data with both same-day and ±5 days moving averaged Sentiel-3 Chl-a values yielded two similar positive correlations (p > 0.05) with rpearson values of 0.56 and 0.53, respectively. However, as the moving averaged values resulted in significantly more available data than daily matchups (N = 392 vs. N = 1292) at a similar quality of correlation with similar model parameters (slope (1.53 and 1.7) and intercept (−0.28 and −0.33) respectively), which were not significantly different (p > 0.05), the further analyses were focused on ±5 days moving averaged values. A thorough comparison of seasonal and growing season averages (GSA) also showed a very good agreement, except for a few stations characterized by very shallow depth. Overestimation by the Sentinel-3 occurred in shallow coastal areas and was attributed to the interferences from benthic vegetation and high levels of Colored Dissolved Organic matter (CDOM) interfering with the Chl-a signals. Underestimation observed in the inner estuaries with shallow Chl-a rich waters, however, seen as a result of self-shading at high Chl-a concentrations, reducing effective absorption by phytoplankton. Besides the observed minor disagreements, there was no significant difference when the GSA values from in situ and Sentinel-3 were compared for all three water types (p > 0.05, N = 110). Analyzing Chl-a estimates along a depth gradient showed significant (p < 0.001) non-linear trends of declining concentrations from shallow to deeper waters for both in situ (explaining 15.2 % of the variance (N = 109)) and Sentinel-3 data (explaining 36.3 % of the variance (N = 110)), with higher variability in shallow waters. Furthermore, Sentinel-3 enabled full spatial coverage of all 102 monitored water bodies providing GSA data at much higher spatial and temporal resolutions for good ecological status (GES) assessment compared to only 61 through in situ sampling. This underlines the potential of Sentinel-3 for substantially extending the geographical coverage of monitoring and assessment. However, the systematic over- and underestimation of Chl-a in shallow nutrient rich inner estuaries through Sentinel-3 requires further attention to enable routine application of the Sentinel-3 level 2 standard product in the operational Chl-a monitoring in Danish coastal waters. We provide methodological recommendations on how to improve the Sentinel-3 products' representation of in situ Chl-a conditions. Continued frequent in situ sampling remains important for monitoring as these measurements provide essential data for empirical calibration and validation of satellite based estimates to reduce possible systematic bias.
Original languageEnglish
Article number165310
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Chlorophyll-a
  • Coastal waters
  • Good ecological status
  • In situ
  • Remote sensing
  • Sentinel-3


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