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September 30, 2016

Landsat & Sentinel-2A work together to track sediment plume in the North Sea

EarthViews is a continuing series in which we share a USGS Image of the Week featuring the USGS/NASA Landsat program. From the artistry of Earth imagery to natural and human-caused land change over time, check back every Friday to finish your week with a visual flourish!

Image shows blue expanse of the North Sea
Landsat 8 shows a sediment plume in the North Sea near England on June 30, 2016. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat Program.

The EarthView: Landsat Confirms Spatial Extent of Wind Tower Sediment Plumes


Earth observation satellites help researchers confirm the presence of large plumes containing suspended sediments extending from hundreds of wind towers in the coastal waters of the North Sea southeast of England.

Image shows blue expanse of the North Sea with a white streak in the middle
Sentinel-2A shows a sediment plume in the North Sea near England on July 23, 2016. Credit: ESA Sentinel-2.

Images acquired by both the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, as well as the MultiSpectral Instrument (MSI) on the European Space Agency's Sentinel-2A, show the turbid wakes of individual wind turbines. The wakes are 30 meters to 150 meters wide, several kilometers in length, and change direction depending on tidal currents. The wakes from two boats are evident at the left of the Landsat image. A large cloud is part of the left side of the Sentinel image. The improved radiometric quality of Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2A are valuable in this kind of application.

These waters can be highly productive and provide nursery grounds for fish. A study in Remote Sensing of Environment says researchers are studying how the plumes of suspended sediment may impact substrate fauna, seabirds, and marine mammal environments. The source of the suspended sediment remains unclear.

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