Recent and Future Advances in Ocean Color Remote Sensing


December 1, 2010


Curtis Mobley


Sequoia Scientific


During the last 40 years, satellite “ocean color” remote sensing has revolutionized our understanding of the global ocean at kilometer spatial scales. However, the era of multispectral sensors (5-10 wavelengths) and correlational algorithms is coming to an end. Recent work shows the value of hyperspectral sensors (~100 wavelengths) and radiative-transfer-based retrieval algorithms that relate light measurements to environmental information. For example, hyperspectral imagery can generate accurate maps of water quality parameters, water depth, and bottom type in optically shallow waters at the meter scale needed for management of coastal ecosystems and military operations. Not surprisingly, the computational requirements for hyperspectral image processing at high-spatial-resolution are much greater than for low-resolution multispectral images. After reviewing traditional multispectral methodologies for remote sensing of quantities such as chlorophyll, I will survey recently developed hyperspectral techniques for retrieval of depth and bottom type. Present computational requirements will be outlined, and anticipated future computational requirements for global-scale hyperspectral remote sensing will be estimated.


Curtis Mobley

Curtis Mobley received his B.S. in Physics with Highest Honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 1969 and a Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Maryland in 1977. During his career he has been a Fulbright Fellow in Germany, both a National Research Council Resident (postdoctoral) and Senior Research Associate, Institute Scientist at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the Univ. of Washington, and the Program Manager of the Ocean Optics (now Environmental Optics) Program at the Office of Naval Research. Since 1997 he has been Vice President for Science and Senior Scientist at Sequoia Scientific, Inc. His recent research has focused on new inversion algorithms for hyperspectral imagery and improvements in radiative transfer models for ocean remote sensing and ecosystem modeling. He is best known as the developer of the widely used HydroLight radiative transfer software ( and as the author of the text Light and Water: Radiative Transfer in Natural Waters.