[ 1] The distribution of chromophoric-dissolved-organic-matter ( CDOM) was investigated in the western tropical North Atlantic Ocean ( WTNA) during the low and high flow periods of the Amazon River. A strong correlation was observed between in situ CDOM absorption at 490 nm and in situ diffuse attenuation coefficient at 490 nm ( K490) during the high flow period ( ratio of 0.7). SeaWiFS monthly composites of K490 showed ( 1) very low values over most of the WTNA, with higher values restricted to the continental shelf during the low flow season and ( 2) higher K490 over much of the WTNA extending offshore to > 1000 km from the river mouth during the high flow season. The relative contribution to light absorption by particulate ( phytoplankton and detritus) and dissolved ( CDOM) materials was investigated at selected wavelengths. At 440 nm during the high flow period ( 1) CDOM dominated ( -70%) total light absorption closer to the river mouth; ( 2) phytoplankton and detritus dominated ( -40% each) absorption farther offshore but still within the Amazon plume; and ( 3) CDOM contributed -20%, phytoplankton >60%, and detritus -10% outside the plume. In situ data suggests a terrestrial source for the CDOM off the coast of South America during the high flow period with possible offshore local sinks ( photodegradation) as well as sources ( in situ production). The Amazon River strongly influences the optical properties of the WTNA at distances over 1000 km from the river mouth. Retrievals of phytoplankton biomass based on satellite ocean color data can be largely overestimated in the WTNA, if the contribution to light absorption by CDOM and detritus is not taken into account.
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