The accurate measurement of suspended particulate matter (SPM) concentrations in coastal waters is of crucial importance for ecosystem studies, sediment transport monitoring, and assessment of anthropogenic impacts in the coastal ocean. Ocean color remote sensing is an efficient tool to monitor SPM spatio-temporal variability in coastal waters. However, near-shore satellite images are complex to correct for atmospheric effects due to the proximity of land and to the high level of reflectance caused by high SPM concentrations in the visible and near-infrared spectral regions. The water reflectance signal (ρw
) tends to saturate at short visible wavelengths when the SPM concentration increases. Using a comprehensive dataset of high-resolution satellite imagery and in situ SPM and water reflectance data, this study presents (i) an assessment of existing atmospheric correction (AC) algorithms developed for turbid coastal waters; and (ii) a switching method that automatically selects the most sensitive SPM vs. ρw
relationship, to avoid saturation effects when computing the SPM concentration. The approach is applied to satellite data acquired by three medium-high spatial resolution sensors (Landsat-8/Operational Land Imager, National Polar-Orbiting Partnership/Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and Aqua/Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) to map the SPM concentration in some of the most turbid areas of the European coastal ocean, namely the Gironde and Loire estuaries as well as Bourgneuf Bay on the French Atlantic coast. For all three sensors, AC methods based on the use of short-wave infrared (SWIR) spectral bands were tested, and the consistency of the retrieved water reflectance was examined along transects from low- to high-turbidity waters. For OLI data, we also compared a SWIR-based AC (ACOLITE) with a method based on multi-temporal analyses of atmospheric constituents (MACCS). For the selected scenes, the ACOLITE-MACCS difference was lower than 7%. Despite some inaccuracies in ρw
retrieval, we demonstrate that the SPM concentration can be reliably estimated using OLI, MODIS and VIIRS, regardless of their differences in spatial and spectral resolutions. Match-ups between the OLI-derived SPM concentration and autonomous field measurements from the Loire and Gironde estuaries’ monitoring networks provided satisfactory results. The multi-sensor approach together with the multi-conditional algorithm presented here can be applied to the latest generation of ocean color sensors (namely Sentinel2/MSI and Sentinel3/OLCI) to study SPM dynamics in the coastal ocean at higher spatial and temporal resolutions.
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