An Early Warning Indicator for Toxic and Nuisance Blooms Using Ocean Color Satellites

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Algal blooms cause extensive problems in lakes worldwide, including human and animal health risks, anoxia and fish kills, and contaminated potable water. Cyanobacterial blooms are a particular concern because of their dense biomass, toxins, and taste and odor. The Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN) for freshwater systems project is an interagency collaboration between the EPA, NASA, NOAA, and the USGS. Project goals are to (1) develop a standard and uniform approach for early identification of algal blooms that is useful and accessible to stakeholders of freshwater systems using imagery from a new set of satellites (Ocean Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) on Sentinel-3; Landsat 8; and future NASA missions); (2) develop an information dissemination system for expedient public health advisory postings; and (3) better understand the connections between health, economic, and environmental conditions to cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms. The project will initially assess and validate the performance of algorithms for MERIS/Sentinel-3 and Landsat 8 satellites on the basis of existing in situ data, followed by algorithm optimization. Historically, few management decisions rely on satellite-derived water quality products. Upon successful completion of the project, an unprecedented means will have been developed to monitor freshwater systems for algal blooms that pose environmental and health risks.

Author Name
Keith Loftin
Author Email