Using Probability Density Functions to Evaluate Models (PDFEM, v1.0) to compare a biogeochemical model with satellite-derived chlorophyll

Bror Fredrik Jönsson, Christopher L. Follett, Jacob Bien, Stephanie Dutkiewicz, Sangwon Hyun, Gemma Kulk, Gael L. Forget, Christian Müller, Marie-Fanny Racault, Christopher N. Hill, Thomas Jackson, Shubha Sathyendranath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global biogeochemical ocean models are invaluable tools to examine how physical, chemical, and biological processes interact in the ocean. Satellite-derived ocean color properties, on the other hand, provide observations of the surface ocean, with unprecedented coverage and resolution. Advances in our understanding of marine ecosystems and biogeochemistry are strengthened by the combined use of these resources, together with sparse in situ data. Recent modeling advances allow the simulation of the spectral properties of phytoplankton and remote sensing reflectances, bringing model outputs closer to the kind of data that ocean color satellites can provide. However, comparisons between model outputs and analogous satellite products (e.g., chlorophyll a) remain problematic. Most evaluations are based on point-by-point comparisons in space and time, where spuriously large errors can occur from small spatial and temporal mismatches, whereas global statistics provide no information on how well a model resolves processes at regional scales. Here, we employ a unique suite of methodologies, the Probability Density Functions to Evaluate Models (PDFEM), which generate a robust comparison of these resources. The probability density functions of physical and biological properties of Longhurst's provinces are compared to evaluate how well a model resolves related processes. Differences in the distributions of chlorophyll a concentration (mgĝ€¯m-3) provide information on matches and mismatches between models and observations. In particular, mismatches help isolate regional sources of discrepancy, which can lead to improving both simulations and satellite algorithms. Furthermore, the use of radiative transfer in the model to mimic remotely sensed products facilitates model-observation comparisons of optical properties of the ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4639–4657
Number of pages19
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2023

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