Documenting complex surface temperature patterns from advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) imagery of Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron

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Interannual differences in nutrient concentrations, phytoplankton densities, and the dispersal of zooplankton and fish life history stages (e.g., planktonic larvae, resting eggs) in embayments often are contingent upon bay and coastal water exchange and movements. However, predicting water mass exchange is difficult in that many factors influence the circulation of waters within bays. The central theme of this contribution is that circulation phenomena derived from simple models can be identified and classified using satellite-obtained lake surface temperature maps, and the incidence of events related to gross temperature regime (season) and winds (shorter-term perturbations). To illustrate this potential, the high sampling frequency of AVHRR imagery was used to examine seasonal surface temperature patterns between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron over a 3-year period. Linear regressions of CoastWatch IMGMAP and OCNMAP daytime sea surface temperature (SST) algorithms against shipboard bulk temperatures were highly significant, with r2 values of 0.98 and 0.94. Synoptic reconnaissance of lake surface temperatures from AVHRR verified many previously known general seasonal events, yet provided much better spatial coverage. The thermal bar persisted in the bay for approximately 6 weeks from late April until mid-June. The combination of shallow depths and impounded river discharges caused inner bay waters to warm more rapidly than outer bay and open lake waters. A thermal gradient of 6 to 10°C persisted between the inner bay and Lake Huron waters throughout the summer. The persistence of major spatial thermal gradients restricted mixing of inner bay waters with the outer bay and open lake, whereas inner and outer bay temperatures converged during fall months, increasing the likelihood of mixing. However, frequent wind-induced effects can cause circulation reversals and move surface waters in quite complex patterns across the bay. AVHRR image classification confirms the sensitivity of inner bay waters to wind stress-related circulation, aiding interpretations of historical data sets.

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Journal of Great Lakes Research