The coastal ocean is one of the most important environments on our planet, home to some of the most bio-diverse and productive ecosystems and providing key input to the livelihood of the majority of human society. It is also a highly dynamic and sensitive environment, particularly susceptible to damage from anthropogenic influences such as pollution and over-exploitation as well as the effects of climate change. These have the added potential to exacerbate other anthropogenic effects and the recent change in sea temperature can be considered as the most pervasive and severe cause of impact in coastal ecosystems worldwide. In addition to open ocean measurements, satellite observations of sea surface temperature (SST) have the potential to provide accurate synoptic coverage of this essential climate variable for the near-shore coastal ocean. However, this potential has not been fully realized, mainly because of a lack of reliable in situ validation data, and the contamination of near-shore measurements by the land. The underwater biotechnological park of Crete (UBPC) has been taking near surface temperature readings autonomously since 2014. Therefore, this study investigated the potential for this infrastructure to be used to validate SST measurements of the near-shore coastal ocean. A comparison between in situ data and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Aqua and Terra SST data is presented for a four year (2014–2018) in situ time series recorded from the UBPC. For matchups between in situ and satellite SST data, only nighttime in situ extrapolated to the sea surface (SSTskin) data within ±1 h from the satellite’s overpass are selected and averaged. A close correlation between the in situ data and the MODIS SST was found (squared Pearson correlation coefficient-r2
> 0.9689, mean absolute error-Δ < 0.51 both for Aqua and Terra products). Moreover, close correlation was found between the satellite data and their adjacent satellite pixel’s data further from the shore (r2
> 0.9945, Δ < 0.23 for both Aqua and Terra products, daytime and nighttime satellite SST). However, there was also a consistent positive systematic difference in the satellite against satellite mean biases indicating a thermal adjacency effect from the land (e.g., mean bias between daytime Aqua satellite SST from the UBPC cell minus the respective adjacent cell’s data is δ = 0.02). Nevertheless, if improvements are made in the in situ sensors and their calibration and uncertainty evaluation, these initial results indicate that near-shore autonomous coastal underwater temperature arrays, such as the one at UBPC, could in the future provide valuable in situ data for the validation of satellite coastal SST measurements.
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