Remote sensing in optically complex waters water quality assessment using MERIS data

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University

Abstract: This PhD study focusses on the use of MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) data for reliable and quantitative water-quality assessment of optically-complex waters (lake, brackish and coastal waters). The thesis is divided into two parts: A. intercalibration of reflectance measurements in different optically-complex water bodies (Paper I), and validation of various satellite processing algorithms for the coastal zone (Paper II). B. Applications: the use of MERIS data in integrated coastal zone management mostly using Himmerfjärden bay as an example.Himmerfjärden bay is one of the most frequently monitored coastal areas in the world and it is also the recipient of a large urban sewage treatment plant, where a number of full-scale nutrient management experiments have been conducted to evaluate the ecological changes due to changes in nutrient schemes in the sewage plant.Paper I describes the development and assessment of a new hyperspectral handheld radiometer for in situ sampling and validation of remote sensing reflectance.  The instrument is assessed in comparison with readily available radiometers that are commonly used in validation.Paper II has a focus on the validation of level 2 reflectance and water products derived from MERIS data. It highlights the importance of calibration and validation activities, and the current accuracy and limitations of satellite products in the coastal zone.  Bio-optical in situ data is highlighted as one of the key components for assessing the reliability of current and future satellite missions. Besides suspended particulate matter (SPM), the standard MERIS products have shown to be insufficient to assure data quality retrieval for Baltic Sea waters. Alternative processors and methods such as those assessed and developed in this thesis therefore will have to be put in place in order to secure the success of future operational missions, such as Sentinel-3.The two presented manuscripts in the applied part B of the thesis (paper III and IV), showed examples on the combined use of in situ measurements with optical remote sensing to support water quality monitoring programs by using turbidity and suspended particulate matter as coastal indicators (manuscript III). The article also provides  a new turbidity algorithm for the Baltic Sea and a robust and cost-efficient method for research and management.  A novel approach to improve the quality of the satellite-derived products in the coastal zone was demonstrated in manuscript IV. The analysis included, the correction for adjacency effects from land and an improved pixel quality screening.  The thesis provides the first detailed spatio-temporal description of the evolution of phytoplankton blooms in Himmerfjärden bay  using quality-assured MERIS data, thus forwarding our understanding of ecological processes in in Swedish coastal waters.It must be noted that monitoring from space is not a trivial matter in these optically-complex waters dominated by the absorption of coloured dissolved organic matter (CDOM). These types of coastal waters are especially challenging for quantitative assessment from space due to their low reflectance.  Papers III and IV thus also provide tools for a more versatile use in other coastal waters that are not as optically-complex as the highly absorbing Baltic Sea waters. The benefits of the increased spatial-temporal data coverage by optical remote sensing were presented, and also compared to in situ sampling methods (using chlorophyll-a as indicator).