Tracking Virginia’s Green Algal Monster with Remote Sensing

EarthzineAnalyzing Human and Environmental Health, DEVELOP 2015 Summer VPS

This is an article from the Summer 2015 VPS. For more VPS articles, click here


MODIS imagery displaying changes in chlorophyll levels in the Chesapeake Bay. Image Credit: Virginia Water Resources Team

Category: Analyzing Human and Environmental Health
Project Team: Virginia Water Resources
Team Location: Patrick Henry Building – Richmond, Virginia

Cassandra Morgan
Sara Lubkin

Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Program)

Harmful algal bloom (HAB) species such as Alexandrium monilatum and Cochlodinium polykroides have had an increasing ecological impact on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where they disrupt water chemistry, kill fish, and cause human illness. In Virginia, scientists from Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and Old Dominion University (ODU) monitor HABs and their effect on water quality; however, these groups lack a method to monitor HABs in real time. This limits the ability to document associated water quality conditions and predict future blooms. Band reflectance values from Landsat 8 Surface Reflectance data obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Explorer and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) CoastWatch were cross-calibrated to create a regression model that calculated concentrations of chlorophyll. Calculations were verified with in-situ measurements from the Virginia Estuarine and Coastal Observing System. Imagery produced with the Chlorophyll-a calculation model will allow VIMS and ODU scientists to assess the timing, magnitude, duration and frequency of HABs in Virginia’s Chesapeake watershed and to predict the environmental and water quality conditions that favor bloom development.

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