Remote Sensing of Water Clarity in Tampa Bay

Z. Chen
Frank E. Muller-Karger, University of South Florida
C. Hu


We examined the spatial and temporal variability of the Secchi Disk Depth (SDD) within Tampa Bay, Florida, using the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) satellite imagery collected from September 1997 to December 2005. SDD was computed using a two-step process, first estimating the diffuse light attenuation coefficient at 490 nm, Kd(490), using a semi-analytical algorithm and then SDD using an empirical relationship with Kd(490). The empirical SDD algorithm (SDD = 1.04 × Kd(490)- 0.82, 0.9 < SDD < 8.0 m, r2 = 0.67, n = 80) is based on historical SDD observations collected by the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County (EPCHC) in Tampa Bay. SeaWiFS derived SDD showed distinctive seasonal variability, attributed primarily to chlorophyll concentrations and color in the rainy season and to turbidity in the dry season, which are in turn controlled by river runoff and winds or wind-induced sediment resuspension, respectively. The Bay also experienced strong interannual variability, mainly related to river runoff variability. As compared to in situ single measurements, the SeaWiFS data provide improved estimates of the "mean" water clarity conditions in this estuary because of the robust, frequent, and synoptic coverage. Therefore we recommend incorporation of this technique for routine monitoring of water quality in coastal and large estuarine waters like Tampa Bay.