Glider and satellite monitoring of the variability of the suspended particle distribution and size in the Rhône ROFI

Gaël Many, François Bourrin, Xavier Durrieu De Madron, Anouck Ody, David Doxaran, Pierre Cauchy

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An experiment was carried out in the Gulf of Lions (NW Mediterranean) in February 2014 to assess the temporal and spatial variability of the distribution and size of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the Rhône Region of Freshwater Influence (ROFI). A set of observations from an autonomous underwater glider, satellite ocean color data, and meteorological and hydrological time-series data highlighted the high variability of the Rhône River surface turbid plume and presence of a bottom nepheloid layer (BNL) that depended on wind and river discharge conditions. While continental winds pushed the surface plume offshore, marine winds pressed the plume at the coast and favored the sedimentation of as well as nourishment of the BNL. Moderate storm events favored breakage of the plume stratification and along-shelf transport of Rhône River particles. The spectral slopes of glider and satellite-derived light backscattering coefficients, γ, were used as a proxies of the SPM size distribution. The results clearly showed that the change of the SPM size in the nepheloid layers was induced by the flocculation of fine sediments, which became finer seaward throughout the ROFI, as well as the effect of rough weather in the breakup of flocs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-135
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Early online date26 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Nepheloid layers
  • ROFI
  • Gulf of Lions
  • Rhône River
  • flood
  • glider

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