Historically, the treatment of optical oceanography has been limited to studies of relatively large (i.e. >1μm) organic (phytoplankton) and inorganic (sands, silts, and clays) particles. These particles have been considered the dominant variables in the attenuation of light (natural or artificial) in the sea, and their respective spectral absorption and scattering curves have been the focus of numerous applications of inversion techniques. Ultimately, the goal of these studies, irrespective of whether they are primarily theoretical or experimental, is to make use of characteristic optical signatures to define the particulate content of oceanic water masses. In this way, oceanographically significant processes such as primary production, current dynamics, and sediment transport can be provided with a unique tracer, since suspended particles are considered quasi-conservative in most marine environments.
by R. W. Spinrad