The Operational Land Imager (OLI) onboard Landsat 8 has found successful application in inland and coastal water remote sensing. Its radiometric specification and high spatial resolution allows quantification of water-leaving radiance while resolving small water bodies. However, its limited multispectral band set restricts the range of water quality parameters that can be retrieved. Identification of cyanobacteria biomass has been demonstrated for sensors with a band centered near 620 nm, the absorption peak of the diagnostic pigment phycocyanin. While OLI lacks such a band in the orange region, superposition of the available multispectral and panchromatic bands suggests that it can be calculated by a scaled difference. A set of 428 in situ spectra acquired in diverse lakes in Belgium and The Netherlands was used to develop and test an orange contra
-band retrieval algorithm, achieving a mean absolute percentage error of 5.39% and a bias of −0.88% in the presence of sensor noise. Atmospheric compensation error propagated to the orange contra
-band was observed to maintain about the same magnitude (13% higher) observed for the red band and thus results in minimal additional effects for possible base line subtraction or band ratio algorithms for phycocyanin estimation. Generality of the algorithm for different reflectance shapes was tested against a set of published average coastal and inland Optical Water Types, showing robust retrieval for all but relatively clear water types (Secchi disk depth > 6 m and chlorophyll a
). The algorithm was further validated with 79 matchups against the Ocean and Land Colour Imager (OLCI) orange band for 10 globally distributed lakes. The retrieved band is shown to convey information independent from the adjacent bands under variable phycocyanin concentrations. An example application using Landsat 8 imagery is provided for a known cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Erie, US. The method is distributed in the ACOLITE atmospheric correction code. The contra
-band approach is generic and can be applied to other sensors with overlapping bands. Recommendations are also provided for development of future sensors with broad spectral bands with the objective to maximize the accuracy of possible spectral enhancements.
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