Marine Science Faculty Publications

Monitoring Turbidity in Tampa Bay Using MODIS/Aqua 250-m Imagery

Document Type


Publication Date



MODIS, Aqua, Ocean color, Remote sensing reflectance, Atmospheric correction, Bio-optical inversion, Turbidity, River runoff, Sediment resuspension, Tampa Bay estuary

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


We developed an approach to map turbidity in estuaries using a time series (May 2003 to April 2006) of 250-m resolution images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, using Tampa Bay as a case study. Cross-calibration of the MODIS 250-m data (originally designed for land use) with the well-calibrated MODIS 1-km ocean data showed that the pre-launch radiometric calibration of the 250-m bands was adequate. A simple single scattering atmospheric correction provided reliable retrievals of remote sensing reflectance at 645 nm (0.002 < Rrs(645) < 0.015 sr− 1, median bias = − 7%, slope = 0.95, intercept = 0.00, r2 = 0.97, n = 15). A more rigorous approach, using a multiple scattering atmospheric correction of the cross-calibrated at-sensor radiances, retrieved similar Rrs(645). Rrs(645) estimates, after stringent data quality control, showed a close correlation with in situ turbidity (turbidity = 1203.9 × Rrs(645)1.087, 0.9 < turbidity < 8.0 NTU, r2 = 0.73, n = 43). MODIS turbidity imagery derived using the developed approach showed that turbidity in Hillsborough Bay (HB) was consistently higher than that in other sub-regions except in August and September, when higher concentrations of colored dissolved organic matter seem to have caused underestimates of turbidity. In comparison, turbidity in Middle Tampa Bay (MTB) was generally lowest among the Bay throughout the year. Both Old Tampa Bay (OTB) and Low Tampa Bay (LTB) showed marked seasonal variations with higher turbidity in LTB during the dry season and in OTB during the wet season, respectively. This seasonality is linked to wind-driven bottom resuspension events in lower portion of the Bay and river inputs of sediments in the upper portion of the Bay. The Bay also experiences significant interannual variation in turbidity, which was attributed primarily to changes in wind forcing. Compared with the once-per-month, non-synoptic in situ surveys, synoptic and frequent sampling facilitated by satellite remote sensing provides improved assessments of turbidity patterns and thus a valuable tool for operational monitoring of water quality of estuarine and coastal waters such as in Tampa Bay.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Remote Sensing of Environment, v. 109, issue 2, p. 207-220