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Satellites for long-term monitoring of inland U.S. lakes: The MERIS time series and application for chlorophyll-a

September 24, 2021

Lakes and other surface fresh waterbodies provide drinking water, recreational and economic opportunities, food, and other critical support for humans, aquatic life, and ecosystem health. Lakes are also productive ecosystems that provide habitats and influence global cycles. Chlorophyll concentration provides a common metric of water quality, and is frequently used as a proxy for lake trophic state. Here, we document the generation and distribution of the complete MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS; Appendix A provides a complete list of abbreviations) radiometric time series for over 2300 satellite resolvable inland bodies of water across the contiguous United States (CONUS) and more than 5,000 in Alaska. This contribution greatly increases the ease of use of satellite remote sensing data for inland water quality monitoring, as well as highlights new horizons in inland water remote sensing algorithm development. We evaluate the performance of satellite remote sensing Cyanobacteria Index (CI)-based chlorophyll algorithms, the retrievals for which provide surrogate estimates of phytoplankton concentrations in cyanobacteria dominated lakes. Our analysis quantifies the algorithms' abilities to assess lake trophic state across the CONUS. As a case study, we apply a bootstrapping approach to derive a new CI-to-chlorophyll relationship, ChlBS, which performs relatively well with a multiplicative bias of 1.11 (11%) and mean absolute error of 1.60 (60%). While the primary contribution of this work is the distribution of the MERIS radiometric timeseries, we provide this case study as a roadmap for future stakeholders' algorithm development activities, as well as a tool to assess the strengths and weaknesses of applying a single algorithm across CONUS.