Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 132, Issue 1–3, pp 311–320 | Cite as

Mapping Turbidity in the Charles River, Boston Using a High-resolution Satellite

  • Ferdi L. Hellweger
  • Will Miller
  • Kehinde Sarat Oshodi


The usability of high-resolution satellite imagery for estimating spatial water quality patterns in urban water bodies is evaluated using turbidity in the lower Charles River, Boston as a case study. Water turbidity was surveyed using a boat-mounted optical sensor (YSI) at 5 m spatial resolution, resulting in about 4,000 data points. The ground data were collected coincidently with a satellite imagery acquisition (IKONOS), which consists of multispectral (R, G, B) reflectance at 1 m resolution. The original correlation between the raw ground and satellite data was poor (R 2 = 0.05). Ground data were processed by removing points affected by contamination (e.g., sensor encounters a particle floc), which were identified visually. Also, the ground data were corrected for the memory effect introduced by the sensor’s protective casing using an analytical model. Satellite data were processed to remove pixels affected by permanent non-water features (e.g., shoreline). In addition, water pixels within a certain buffer distance from permanent non-water features were removed due to contamination by the adjacency effect. To determine the appropriate buffer distance, a procedure that explicitly considers the distance of pixels to the permanent non-water features was applied. Two automatic methods for removing the effect of temporary non-water features (e.g., boats) were investigated, including (1) creating a water-only mask based on an unsupervised classification and (2) removing (filling) all local maxima in reflectance. After the various processing steps, the correlation between the ground and satellite data was significantly better (R 2 = 0.70). The correlation was applied to the satellite image to develop a map of turbidity in the lower Charles River, which reveals large-scale patterns in water clarity. However, the adjacency effect prevented the application of this method to near-shore areas, where high-resolution patterns were expected (e.g., outfall plumes).


Charles River IKONOS Remote sensing Satellite Turbidity Urban Water quality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ferdi L. Hellweger
    • 1
  • Will Miller
    • 1
  • Kehinde Sarat Oshodi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Civil and Environmental EngineeringNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Environmental and Water Resources EngineeringUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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