This paper proposes new inversion algorithms for the estimation of Chlorophyll-a concentration (Chla) and the ocean's inherent optical properties (IOPs) from the measurement of remote sensing reflectance (Rrs). With in situ data from the NASA bio-optical marine algorithm data set (NOMAD), inversion algorithms were developed by the novel gene expression programming (GEP) approach, which creates, manipulates and selects the most appropriate tree-structured functions based on evolutionary computing. The limitations and validity of the proposed algorithms are evaluated by simulated Rrs spectra with respect to NOMAD, and a closure test for IOPs obtained at a single reference wavelength. The application of GEP-derived algorithms is validated against in situ, synthetic and satellite match-up data sets compiled by NASA and the International Ocean Color Coordinate Group (IOCCG). The new algorithms are able to provide Chla and IOPs retrievals to those derived by other state-of-the-art regression approaches and obtained with the semi- and quasi-analytical algorithms, respectively. In practice, there are no significant differences between GEP, support vector regression, and multilayer perceptron model in terms of the overall performance. The GEP-derived algorithms are successfully applied in processing the images taken by the Sea Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), generate Chla and IOPs maps which show better details of developing algal blooms, and give more information on the distribution of water constituents between different water bodies.
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