Spatial and temporal variations in colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) are of great importance to understanding the dynamics of the biogeochemical properties of water bodies. This study proposed a remote sensing approach for estimating CDOM concentrations (CCDOM
) based on in situ observations from the Bohai Sea (BS) and the North Yellow Sea (NYS). Cross-validation demonstrated that the accuracy of the CDOM algorithm is R2
= 0.78, APD = 15.9%, RMSE = 0.92 (ppb). The CDOM algorithm was applied to estimate the 14-year (2003–2016) sea surface CCDOM
in the BS and NYS areas using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) monthly products. The results showed a significant fluctuation in CDOM variations on a long-term scale. The highest values of CDOM were observed in the BS, the middle values were observed in the Bohai Strait, and the lowest values were observed in the NYS. Seasonal variations were observed with long-lasting high CDOM values from June to August in coastal waters, while relatively low values were observed in the NYS in the summer. In the spring and fall, a distinct increase appeared in the NYS. High CDOM values in the nearshore coastal waters were mostly related to terrestrial inputs, while CDOM in the offshore regions was mainly due to autochthonous production. Furthermore, ocean currents played an important role in the variations in CDOM in the BS and NYS areas, especially for variations in CDOM in the Bohai Strait.
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