U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Water Research 46 (2012) 5410-5422. Doi:10.1016/j.watres.2012.07.024


This paper describes the use of ocean color remote sensing data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard the Aqua satellite to characterize turbidity in Lake Okeechobee and its primary drainage basins, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries from 2002 to 2010. Drainage modification and agricultural development in southern Florida transport sediments and nutrients from watershed agricultural areas to Lake Okeechobee. As a result of development around Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries that are connected to Lake Okeechobee, estuarine conditions have also been adversely impacted, resulting in salinity and nutrient fluctuations. The measurement of water turbidity in lacustrine and estuarine ecosystems allows researchers to understand important factors such as light limitation and the potential release of nutrients from resuspended sediments. Based on a strong correlation between water turbidity and normalized water-leaving radiance at the near-infrared (NIR) band (nLw(869)), a new satellite water turbidity algorithm has been developed for Lake Okeechobee. This study has shown important applications with satellite-measured nLw(869) data for water quality monitoring and measurements for turbid inland lakes. MODIS-Aqua-measured water property data are derived using the shortwave infrared (SWIR)-based atmospheric correction algorithm in order to remotely obtain synoptic turbidity data in Lake Okeechobee and normalized water-leaving radiance using the red band (nLw(645)) in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. We found varied, but distinct seasonal, spatial, and event driven turbidity trends in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuary regions. Wind waves and hurricanes have the largest influence on turbidity trends in Lake Okeechobee, while tides, currents, wind waves, and hurricanes influence the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuarine areas.