NASA plans to launch a new satellite later this year which scientists worldwide will use to assemble important environmental information, based on the colour of the sea.
The project, called SeaWiFS (Sea Viewing Wide Field of Viewing Sensor), will rely on high definition images recorded in a series of narrow colour bands to determine levels of suspended sediment and the presence of phytoplankton - key indicators of conditions.
The accuracy of the data gathered by the latest technology on board the satellite will be seriously diminished unless it can be corrected to take into account significant interference from the earth's atmosphere. So researchers at the University of Plymouth have joined forces with the Natural Environment Research Council in an experiment that aims to help overcome the problem.
The Plymouth Atmospheric Correction Experiment will in-volve several boats, planes and a research buoy to simultaneously measure sea surface characteristics and record colour signals from various heights above it.
Meteorological Research Flight aircraft will collect atmospheric data such as windspeed and humidity as well as more detailed information on water vapour and ozone concentration, to determine the degree of atmospheric distortion.
Meanwhile, several research boats and the Plymouth Marine Bio-optical Buoy, will measure the suspended sediment, chlorophyll and optical properties of the sea.
The information will be used to test and perfect computerised atmospheric correction models being developed at Plymouth and elsewhere.