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When Hurricane Katrina passed over southern Florida, Florida Bay and the West Florida Shelf, and into the Gulf of Mexico, empirically derived chl a increases were observed in the Tortugas Gyre circulation feature, and in adjacent waters. Analysis of the empirically derived chl a increase within the gyre has been primarily attributed to initiation of a phytoplankton bloom promoted by nutrients upwelled by Katrina's winds. Detailed analysis of inherent optical properties derived from remotely sensed radiances, however, indicated the interaction of Katrina with shallow coastal and shelf waters likely entrained waters with higher concentrations of chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) into the gyre circulation, augmenting the chl a signal. Storm-induced upwelling would also transport optically active CDOM to the surface. Increases in empirically derived chl a in the Florida coastal waters influenced by Katrina's winds were therefore partly due to increased absorption by CDOM. This analysis indicates that elevated empirically derived chl a in hurricane-influenced waters should not be unambiguously attributed to increased phytoplankton productivity, particularly in an optically complex coastal environment.