National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2001

Field and laboratory studies on the effect of particle size and composition on optical backscattering measurements in hydrothermal plumes

Baker, E.T., D.A. Tennant, R.A. Feely, G.T. Lebon, and S.L. Walker

Deep-Sea Res. Pt. I, 48, 593–604, doi: 10.1016/S0967-0637(00)00011-X (2001)

We describe the performance of an inexpensive but highly sensitive light backscattering sensor (LBSS) suitable for use in deep-sea waters, where particle concentrations are typically <~0.1 mg/l. Laboratory calibrations using aluminosilicate particles and latex spheres show that the concentration-normalized backscattering of the LBSS, Kbs, is greatest for particles with a diameter close to the wavelength of light emitted by the LBSS (0.88 µm), declining by more than a factor of five for particles <0.1 µm or >10 µm. Field studies indicate that in hydrothermal plumes dominated by fine-grained metal precipitates the 95% confidence interval for predicting mass concentration with an LBSS ranges from ±0.004 mg/l for 0.03 mg/l suspensions to ±0.008 mg/l at 0.12 mg/l. Comparisons among a group of 19 LBSSs found between-instrument variability to reach 70%, but normalizing the raw data using a laboratory calibration procedure reduced the maximum variability to ~8%.

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