Quantitative detection of chlorophyll in cyanobacterial blooms by satellite remote sensing

Kutser, Tiit

Limnol. Oceanogr., 49(6), 2004, 2179-2189 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2004.49.6.2179

ABSTRACT: The extent of cyanobacterial blooms has been mapped using different satellite sensors from weather satellites to synthetic aperture radars. Quantitative detection of chlorophyll in cyanobacterial blooms by remote sensing, however, has been less successful. The first civilian hyperspectral sensor in space, Hyperion, acquired an image of cyanobacterial bloom in the western part of the Gulf of Finland on 14 July 2002. A chlorophyll concentration map was produced from this image using a spectral library that was created by running a bio-optical model with variable concentrations of chlorophyll. The results show that chlorophyll concentrations in the bloom area were much higher than reported by conventional water-monitoring programs, ships-of-opportunity, and satellite measurements. The reason why both in situ and satellite methods underestimate the amount of phytoplankton during cyanobacterial blooms is vertical and horizontal distribution of cyanobacteria, because cyanobacteria can regulate their buoyancy and are not uniformly distributed within the top mixed layer of water column in calm weather conditions. Aggregations of cyanobacteria form dense subsurface blooms and surface scums during extensive blooms. This study demonstrates that it is difficult to collect representative water samples from research vessels using standard methods because ships and water samplers destroy the natural distribution of cyanobacteria in the sampling process. Flowthrough systems take water samples from the depths at which the concentration of cyanobacteria is not correlated with the amount of phytoplankton that remote sensing instruments detect. The chlorophyll estimation accuracy in cyanobacterial blooms by many satellites is limited because of spatial resolution, as significant changes in chlorophyll concentration occur even at a smaller spatial scale than 30 m.

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