Ocean Optics -Fundamentals


This 2-day course is designed for scientists, engineers, and managers who wish to learn the fundamentals of ocean optics. Examples will be provided on how much optical conditions vary by depth, by geographic location and season, and by wavelength. Examples from the in situ online databases and from satellite climatologies will be provided.

What you will learn:

  • Applications of ocean optics
  • Common terminology & wavelength dependencies of key optical properties
  • Traps to avoid in using raw optical data
  • Typical values for various bio-optical properties & empirical relationships among optical properties
  • Methods and equipment used to make measurements of optical parameters.From this course you will obtain the knowledge and ability to extract and analyze bio-optical data from NASA, ONR, & NODC databases, files, & websites, and you will be able to converse meaningfully with colleagues about bio-optical parameters. You will understand the pros and cons of in situ data & satellite imagery data.

Course Outline:

  1. Applications of Ocean Optics. Examples: Laser Communications and Bathymetry inferred from imagery
  2. Common Terminology. Definitions and descriptions of key Inherent and Apparent Optical Properties such as absorption, “beam c,” diffuse attenuation (K), optical scattering (“b”) & optical backscatter (“bb”)
  3. Typical Values for Optical Properties… in deep, open ocean waters, in continental shelf waters, and in turbid estuaries (Tampa Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Yellow Sea, etc.)
  4. Relationships Among Optical Properties. Estimating “K” from chlorophyll, beam attenuation from diffuse attenuation, and wavelength dependence of K, c, etc.
  5. Measurement Systems & Associated Data Artifacts. Overview of COTS bio-optical sensors and warnings about their various “issues” & artifacts.
  6. In Situ & Satellite Imagery Data Archives/Repositories. How to use the ONR/JHUAPL, NODC, & NASA on-line databases & satellite imagery websites.
  7. Software to Display, Process, & Analyze Optical Data. How to display customized subsets of NASA’s world-wide images of optical properties. Learn about GUI tools such as “ProfileViewer,” (Java program to display hundreds or even thousands of profiles at once, but to select individual ones to map, edit, or delete; “Hyperspec” ( powerful Matlab editor capable of handling ~ 100 wavelengths of WETLabs ACs data), and “S2editor” (Matlab GUI allowing simultaneous screening/editing of up & down casts, or two different parameters)


  • Jeffrey H. Smart Smart is a member of the Principal Professional Staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory where he has spent the past 35 years specializing in ocean optics and environmental assessments. He has published numerous papers on empirical ocean optical properties and he was the Project Manager and Principal Investigator of the World-wide Ocean Optics Database project from 1996 to 2012.

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