Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


NASA satellites eye coastal water quality

Using data from instruments aboard NASA satellites, Zhiqiang Chen and colleagues at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, found that they can monitor water quality almost daily, rather than monthly. Such information has direct application for resource managers devising restoration plans for coastal water ecosystems and federal and state regulators in charge of defining water quality standards.

The team’s findings, published July 30 in two papers in Remote Sensing of Environment, will help tease out factors that drive changes in coastal water quality. For example, sediments entering the water as a result of coastal development or pollution can cause changes in water turbidity – a measure of the amount of particles suspended in the water. Sediments suspended from the bottom by strong winds or tides may also cause such changes. Knowing where the sediments come from is critical to managers because turbidity cuts off light to the bottom, thwarting the natural growth of plants.

"If we can track the source of turbidity, we can better understand why turbidity is changing. And if the source is human-related, we can try to manage that human activity," says Frank Muller-Karger, a study co-author from the University of South Florida.

Satellites previously have observed turbidity in the open ocean by monitoring how much light is reflected and absorbed by the water. The technique has not had much success in observing turbidity along the coast, however. That’s because shallow coastal waters and Earth’s atmosphere serve up complicated optical properties that make it difficult for researchers to determine which colors in a satellite image are related to turbidity, which to shallow bottom waters, and which to the atmosphere. Now with advances in satellite sensors combined with developments in how the data are analyzed, Chen and colleagues show it is possible to monitor turbidity of coastal waters via satellite.

The traditional methods of monitoring coastal water quality require scientists to use boats to gather water samples, typically on a monthly basis because of the high costs of these surveys. The method is sufficient to capture episodic events affecting water quality, such as seasonal freshwater runoff. Chen and colleagues suspected, however, that the monthly measurements were not capturing fast changes in factors that affect water quality, such as winds, tides and human influences including pollution and runoff.

The team set out to see if satellites could accurately measure two key indicators of water quality - turbidity and water clarity – in Tampa Bay, Fla. An analysis of turbidity takes into account water clarity, a measure of how much light can penetrate into deep water. Satellites, with their wide coverage and multiple passes per week, provided a solution to frequent looks and measuring an entire estuary within seconds.

To determine water clarity in Tampa Bay, the team looked at more than eight years of imagery from GeoEYE's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) instrument, whose data is analyzed, processed and distributed by NASA for research. The images give a measure of how much light is reflected by the water. The data were put through a two-step calculation to arrive at a measure of clarity. Similarly, data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument onboard the Aqua satellite was compared with measurements of turbidity gathered on the ground and then applied to each whole image to make the maps.

When compared with results from independent field measurements, collected with the help from the U.S. Geological Survey, the researchers found that the satellites offered an accurate measure of water quality in the bay. The method can be applied to coastal waters worldwide with little change in methods, according to Muller-Karger.

Frequent measurements from space could resolve questions about the specific timing and nature of events that led to decreases in water quality. Seasonal freshwater discharge from nearby rivers and runoff into the bay can carry nutrients. If these nutrients are not controlled, they can give rise to large and harmful phytoplankton blooms, which can kill sea grass. Wind conditions, however, are the driving force for a decline in water quality in the dry season between October and June, when bottom sediments are disturbed.

"It’s important to look at baseline conditions and see how they change with the seasons and over the years, and whether that change is due to development, coastal erosion, the extraction and dumping of sediments, or digging a channel," Muller-Karger says.

The SeaWiFS sensor was launched aboard the OrbView-2 satellite in 1997 to collect ocean color data. MODIS was launched aboard the Aqua satellite in 2002. The instrument collects measurements from the entire Earth surface every one to two days.

Lynn Chandler | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>