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How does absorption from CDOM affect the SUNA V2 nitrate measurement?

The SUNA V2 determines nitrate concentrations from the shape of the UV absorption curve. The least squares curve fitting algorithm uses calibrated extinction coefficients for nitrate and bromide (strong absorbing species in salt water) to calculate the concentration of nitrate from the UV absorption curve. The algorithm also employs a linear baseline correction that accounts for absorption that is not associated with either nitrate or bromide. The linear baseline correction successfully compensates for CDOM absorption in cases where the CDOM absorption is close to linear in the low UV. The composition of CDOM is dependent on the type of drainage area around a particular watershed and is therefore highly variable. As a result, the shape of CDOM absorption curve can vary from region to region. For this reason, the baseline correction does not always successfully compensate for CDOM absorption. In cases where the CDOM absorption curve mimics the shape of the nitrate absorption curve, a positive bias can occur.

The most common approach for correcting a positive bias caused by CDOM absorption is to correlate the continuous in situ nitrate data provided by the SUNA V2 with nitrate concentrations from discrete water quality samples measured in a laboratory. The bias may then be calculated either as an absolute offset or as a factor. In order to provide the most robust correction possible, the discrete sample size should be sufficiently large to allow for comparisons and the relationship between the in situ and discrete concentrations should be highly correlated.