Marine Science Faculty Publications

Remote Detection of Trichodesmium Blooms in Optically Complex Coastal Waters: Examples with Modis Full-Spectral Data

Document Type


Publication Date



Cyanobacteria bloom, FAI, Hyperspectral, MERIS, MODIS, Remote sensing, Sargassum, Trichodesmium

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Remote detection of the Trichodesmium spp. cyanobacteria blooms on the west Florida shelf (WFS) has been problematic due to optical complexity caused by sediment resuspension, coastal runoff, and bottom interference. By combining MODIS data measured by the ocean bands and land bands, an approach was developed to identify surface mats of Trichodesmium on the WFS. The approach first identifies possible bloom patches in MODIS FAI (floating algae index) 250m resolution imagery derived from the Rayleigh-corrected reflectance at 667, 859, and 1240nm. Then, spectral analysis examines the unique reflectance characteristics of Trichodesmium at 469, 488, 531, 551, and 555nm due to specific optical properties (absorption, backscattering, and fluorescence) of the unusual pigments in Trichodesmium. These spectral characteristics (i.e., high-low-high-low-high reflectance at 469-488-531-551-555nm, respectively) differentiate Trichodesmium mats unambiguously from other features observed in the FAI imagery, such as Sargassum spp. Tests in other coastal locations show that the approach is robust and applicable to other optically complex waters. Results shown here can help study Trichodesmium bloom dynamics (e.g., initiation and bloom formation) and may also help design future sensors to better detect and quantify Trichodesmium, an important N 2 fixer in the global oceans.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Remote Sensing of Environment, v. 114, issue 9, p. 2048-2058