Retrieval of satellite remotely sensed chlorophyll-a (chl-a) concentrations in coastal regions such as the Bohai and Yellow Seas (BYS) is challenging due to their complex oceanic and atmospheric optical properties. The standard OC3M (ocean chl-a three-band algorithm for MODIS (moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer)) algorithm has been widely used in the BYS, despite well-known uncertainties about its accuracy in terms of absolute magnitude. This was based on the belief that OC3M chl-a is capable of representing reliable relative spatial and temporal patterns of sea surface chl-a concentrations. In this study, the ability of the standard OC3M chl-a algorithm to reproduce accurate seasonality patterns was evaluated, based on comparisons with in situ chl-a measurements in the BYS. The results quantified the overestimation by the standard OC3M algorithm with a median absolute percentage difference of 98.48% and a median relative difference of 1.13 mg m −3 .More importantly, the seasonality from OC3M chl-a was significantly biased relative to the seasonal patterns of in situ chl-a. In addition, a regional GAM (generalized additive model)-based satellite chl-a algorithm was evaluated and compared with OC3M chl-a. The results showed the GAM chl-a improved accuracy in both magnitude and seasonality when compared with in situ chl-a, relative to that from OC3M chl-a.