Application of Landsat imagery to regional-scale assessments of lake clarity

Steven M. Kloiber, Patrick L. Brezonik, Marvin E Bauer

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134 Scopus citations


A procedure that uses Landsat imagery to estimate Secchi disk transparency (SDT) of lakes was developed and applied to ∼500 lakes with surface areas >10ha in the seven-county metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, USA, to assess spatial patterns and temporal trends in lake clarity. Thirteen Landsat MSS and TM images over the period 1973-1998 were used for the analysis. Satellite brightness values from lake surfaces were calibrated against available historical data on SDT (n=∼20-40) measured nearly contemporaneously with the acquisition date of each image. Calibration regression equations for the late-summer TM images had a range of r2 from 0.72 to 0.93. Regression analysis for three late-summer MSS images yielded r2 values ranging from 0.60 to 0.79. Results indicate that a single late-summer image yields a reliable estimate of regional lake clarity and reasonably accurate estimates of SDT for individual lakes. An analysis of seasonal patterns on a large lake water-quality database was used to develop a model that adjusts synoptic satellite SDT estimates from different dates to a common reference, making them more comparable from year-to-year. Analysis of long-term trends shows that in spite of the large land-use changes within the region over the study period, only 49 (about 10%) of assessed lakes in the region showed significant temporal trends in SDT over the period, and more lakes had increasing SDT (34) than decreasing SDT (15).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4330-4340
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Oct 2002


  • Clarity
  • Lake
  • Landsat
  • Satellite
  • Secchi disk
  • Trends


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