Simulation of natural oceanic conditions in a laboratory setting is a challenging task, especially when that environment can be miles away. We present an attempt to replicate the solar radiation expected at different latitudes with varying water clarity conditions up to 30 m in depth using a 2.5 m deep engineering tank at the University of New Hampshire. The goals of the study were: 1) to configure an underwater light source that produced an irradiance spectrum similar to natural daylight with the sun at zenith and at 60° under clear atmospheric conditions, and 2) to monitor water clarity as a function of depth. Irradiance was measured using a spectra-radiometer with a cosine receiver to analyze the output spectrum of submersed lamps as a function of distance. In addition, an underwater reflection method was developed to measure the diffuse attenuation coefficient in real time. Two water clarity types were characterized, clear waters representing deep, open-ocean conditions, and murky waters representing littoral environments. Results showed good correlation between the irradiance measured at 400 nm to 600 nm and the natural daylight spectrum at 3 m from the light source. This can be considered the water surface conditions reference. Using these methodologies in a controlled laboratory setting, we are able to replicate illumination and water conditions to study the physical, chemical and biological processes on natural and man-made objects and/or systems in simulated, varied geographic locations and environments.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

SPIE Proceedings: Ocean Sensing and Monitoring IV



Conference Date

Apr 23 - Apr 26, 2012

Publisher Place

Baltimore, MD



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding


© (2012) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE).