A satellite algorithm for river plume mapping within the Great Lakes basin

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation

Publication Date



A robust river sediment plume algorithm that utilizes color satellite data has been developed for the Great Lakes. The algorithm, which utilizes any ocean color satellite that has a blue, red, green and NIR band such as MODIS and the recently launched NASA NPP VIIRS satellite sensor, first generates a Total Suspended Sediment Index (TSSIGL) that is used to map the extent of the plume. The TSSIGL represents the total suspended solids (TSS) which includes both the organic and inorganic constituents of the plume. The Normalized Difference Vegetative Difference (NDVI) is calculated to generate a representation of the organic dominated concentration at the water surface. The highest TSSIGL values indicate heavy suspended sediment concentration (SSC or total suspended mineral). By comparing the TSSIGL output to the NDVI result, the composition of the plume can be ascertained (sediment dominated versus organic material). The relative concentration of the plume is obtained by examination of the index values. Given the area of the plume and its relative concentration, along with bathymetry, an estimate of the sediment load within the plume can be made. This new approach to mapping plumes in the Great Lakes is applicable to plumes in river mouths, embayment areas, and hydrodynamically complex basins such as Western Lake Erie.

Publisher's Statement

© 2012 The authors.

Publication Title

IAGLR 55th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research