Spectral particulate attenuation and particle size distribution in the bottom boundary layer of a continental shelf Academic Article uri icon


  • Spectral attenuation and absorption coefficients of participate matter and colocated hydrographic measurements were obtained in the Mid-Atlantic Bight during the fall of 1996 and the spring of 1997 as part of the Coastal Mixing and Optics experiment. Within the bottom boundary layer (BBL) the magnitude of the beam attenuation decreased and its spectral shape became steeper with distance from the bottom. Concurrently, the slope of the particulate size distribution (PSD) was found to increase with distance from the bottom. Changes in the PSD shape and the magnitude of the beam attenuation as functions of distance from the bottom in the BBL are consistent with particle resuspension and settling in the BBL, two processes that are dependent on particle size and density. For particles of similar density, resuspension and settling would result in a flattening of the PSD and an increase in the beam attenuation toward the bottom. In both fall and spring the magnitude of the particle attenuation coefficient correlates with its spectral shape, with a flatter shape associated with higher values of the attenuation. This observation is consistent with idealized optical theory for polydispersed nonabsorbing spheres. According to this theory, changes in the steepness of the particle size distribution (particle concentration as a function of size) will be associated with changes in the steepness of the attenuation spectra as a function of wavelength; a flatter particle size distribution will be associated with a flatter attenuation spectrum. In addition, the observed ranges of the beam attenuation spectral slope and the PSD exponent are found to be consistent with this theory. Copyright 2001 by the American Geophysical Union.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Boss, E., Pegau, W. S., Gardner, W. D., Zaneveld, J., Barnard, A. H., Twardowski, M. S., Chang, G. C., & Dickey, T. D.

citation count

  • 121

complete list of authors

  • Boss, E||Pegau, WS||Gardner, WD||Zaneveld, JRV||Barnard, AH||Twardowski, MS||Chang, GC||Dickey, TD

publication date

  • May 2001