Evaluating the portability of satellite derived chlorophyll-a algorithms for temperate inland lakes using airborne hyperspectral imagery and dense surface observations

Harmful Algae. 2018 Jun;76:35-46. doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2018.05.001. Epub 2018 May 15.


This study evaluated the performances of twenty-nine algorithms that use satellite-based spectral imager data to derive estimates of chlorophyll-a concentrations that, in turn, can be used as an indicator of the general status of algal cell densities and the potential for a harmful algal bloom (HAB). The performance assessment was based on making relative comparisons between two temperate inland lakes: Harsha Lake (7.99 km2) in Southwest Ohio and Taylorsville Lake (11.88 km2) in central Kentucky. Of interest was identifying algorithm-imager combinations that had high correlation with coincident chlorophyll-a surface observations for both lakes, as this suggests portability for regional HAB monitoring. The spectral data utilized to estimate surface water chlorophyll-a concentrations were derived from the airborne Compact Airborne Spectral Imager (CASI) 1500 hyperspectral imager, that was then used to derive synthetic versions of currently operational satellite-based imagers using spatial resampling and spectral binning. The synthetic data mimics the configurations of spectral imagers on current satellites in earth's orbit including, WorldView-2/3, Sentinel-2, Landsat-8, Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). High correlations were found between the direct measurement and the imagery-estimated chlorophyll-a concentrations at both lakes. The results determined that eleven out of the twenty-nine algorithms were considered portable, with r2 values greater than 0.5 for both lakes. Even though the two lakes are different in terms of background water quality, size and shape, with Taylorsville being generally less impaired, larger, but much narrower throughout, the results support the portability of utilizing a suite of certain algorithms across multiple sensors to detect potential algal blooms through the use of chlorophyll-a as a proxy. Furthermore, the strong performance of the Sentinel-2 algorithms is exceptionally promising, due to the recent launch of the second satellite in the constellation, which will provide higher temporal resolution for temperate inland water bodies. Additionally, scripts were written for the open-source statistical software R that automate much of the spectral data processing steps. This allows for the simultaneous consideration of numerous algorithms across multiple imagers over an expedited time frame for the near real-time monitoring required for detecting algal blooms and mitigating their adverse impacts.

Keywords: Algal bloom; Algorithms; Chlorophyll-a; Hyperspectral; Temperate lakes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Chlorophyll A / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Harmful Algal Bloom*
  • Kentucky
  • Lakes / microbiology*
  • Ohio
  • Satellite Imagery
  • Water Quality


  • Chlorophyll A