NOAA CoastWatch East Coast Node
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MODIS High-Resolution Diffuse Attenuation Coefficient at 490 nm (Kd490)
for Coastal & Turbid Water

MODIS high-res coastal Kd
Figure: MODIS High-resolution Coastal Kd490, April 9, 2017, 250 m

The diffuse attenuation coefficient in water indicates how strongly light intensity at a specified wavelength is attenuated within the water column. This parameter has wide applicability in ocean optics, as it is directly related to the presence of scattering particles in the water column, either organic or inorganic, and thus is an indication of water clarity.

The diffuse attenuation coefficient at 490 nm (Kd490) indicates the turbidity of the water column - how visible light in the blue to green region of the spectrum penetrates within the water column. The value of Kd490 represents the rate which light at 490 nm is attenuated with depth. For example a Kd490 of 0.1/meter means that light intensity will be reduced one natural log within 10 meters of water. Thus, for a Kd490 of 0.1, one attenuation length is 10 meters. Higher Kd490 value means smaller attenuation depth, and lower clarity of ocean water.

CoastWatch provides high-resolution Kd490 products in near-real time from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on-board the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) Aqua satellite. This high-resolution Kd490 is well-suited to characterize turbidity in coastal and high-turbid water (Tomlinson et al, 2019). It utilizes the 250 m bands on MODIS to achieve the high spatial resolution rather than the 1 km spatial resolution of other MODIS Kd490 products.

Surface reflectance (rho_s) from MODIS bands 1 (red), 2 (near infrared) and 3 (blue) are used to derive Kd490 using the following difference ratio technique developed by NOAA's National Ocean Service: ( Red - NIR ) / ( Blue - NIR ). A red/blue ratio is often used to estimate Kd490 in coastal turbid waters. A correction factor is also applied to adjust the resulting difference ratio to coastal water.

This product has been compared with the MODIS 1 km coastal/turbid Kd490 product, and a scaling equation was added to this product to more closely match this product (Kd250) with the MODIS 1 km coastal/turbid Kd490 (k490noaa) (Tomlinson et al, 2019).
This change took effect starting with data of April 11, 2018 (2018 day 101).

Because this algorithm applies to coastal and turbid water, it is not applicable in low-turbid environments. Kd490 values lower than 1.0/meter are not considered valid. Data files are only available for the U.S. east coast from Virginia to Maine.

Data Access
  • See the Data Access page for data offerings by region.
  • Or use Direct Download to retrieve files by time-interval and region: HTTP, FTP

Tomlinson, M.C., R.P. Stumpf, and R.L. Vogel. 2019. Approximation of Diffuse Attenuation, Kd, for MODIS High-resolution Bands, Remote Sensing Letters, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 178-185.

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