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1 December 2007 Trends in Water Clarity of the Lower Great Lakes from Remotely Sensed Aquatic Color
Caren E. Binding, John H. Jerome, Robert P. Bukata, William G. Booty
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Satellite observations of aquatic colour enable environmental monitoring of the Great Lakes at spatial and temporal scales not obtainable through ground-based monitoring. By merging data from the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) and the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), monthly binned images of water-leaving radiance over the Great Lakes have been produced for the periods 1979–1985 and 1998–2006. This time-series can be interpreted in terms of changes in water clarity, showing seasonal and inter-annual variability of bright-water episodes such as phytoplankton blooms, re-suspension of bottom sediments, and whiting events. Variations in Secchi disk depth over Lakes Erie and Ontario are predicted using empirical relationships from coincident measurements of water transparency and remotely-sensed water-leaving radiance. Satellite observations document the extent to which the water clarity of the lower Great Lakes has changed over the last three decades in response to significant events including the invasion of zebra mussels. Results confirm dramatic reductions in Lake Ontario turbidity in the years following mussel colonization, with a doubling of estimated Secchi depths. Evidence confirms a reduction in the frequency/intensity of whiting events in agreement with suggestions of the role of calcium uptake by mussels on lake water clarity. Increased spring-time water clarity in the eastern basin of Lake Erie also corroborates previous observations in the region. Despite historical reports of localised increases in transparency in the western basin immediately following the mussel invasion, image analysis shows a significant increase in turbidity between the two study periods, in agreement with more recent reports of longer term trends in water clarity. Through its capacity to provide regular and readily interpretable synoptic views of regions undergoing significant environmental change, this work illustrates the value of remotely sensing water colour to water clarity monitoring in the lower Great Lakes.

Caren E. Binding, John H. Jerome, Robert P. Bukata, and William G. Booty "Trends in Water Clarity of the Lower Great Lakes from Remotely Sensed Aquatic Color," Journal of Great Lakes Research 33(4), 828-841, (1 December 2007).[828:TIWCOT]2.0.CO;2
Received: 10 January 2007; Accepted: 7 August 2007; Published: 1 December 2007

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aquatic colour
Great Lakes
remote sensing
Water clarity
water quality
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