For near real-time water applications, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) on Terra and Aqua are currently the only satellite instruments that can provide well-calibrated top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiance data over the global aquatic environments. However, TOA radiance data in the MODIS ocean bands over turbid atmosphere in east China often saturate, leaving only four land bands to use. In this study, an approach based on Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis has been developed and validated to estimate chlorophyll a
concentrations (Chla, μg/L) in surface waters of Taihu Lake, the third largest freshwater lake in China. The EOF approach analyzed the spectral variance of normalized Rayleigh-corrected reflectance (Rrc) data at 469, 555, 645, and 859 nm, and subsequently related that variance to Chla using 28 concurrent MODIS and field measurements. This empirical algorithm was then validated using another 30 independent concurrent MODIS and field measurements. Image analysis and radiative transfer simulations indicated that the algorithm appeared to be tolerant to aerosol perturbations, with unbiased RMS uncertainties of <80% for Chla ranging between 3 and 100 μg/L. Application of the algorithm to a total of 853 MODIS images between 2000 and 2013 under cloud-free conditions revealed spatial distribution patterns and seasonal changes that are consistent to previous findings based on floating algae mats. The current study can provide additional quantitative estimates of Chla that can be assimilated in an existing forecast model, which showed improved performance over the use of a previous Chla algorithm. However, the empirical nature, relatively large uncertainties, and limited number of spectral bands all point to the need of further improvement in data availability and accuracy with future satellite sensors.
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