Date of Award

Spring 3-30-2020

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Emmanuel Boss

Second Committee Member

Andrew C. Thomas

Third Committee Member

Damian Brady


Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) is a major constituent in coastal waters, involved in processes such as light attenuation, pollutant propagation, and waterways blockage. The spatial distribution of SPM is an indicator of deposition and erosion patterns in estuaries and coastal zones and a necessary input to estimate the material fluxes from the land through rivers to the sea. In-situ methods to estimate SPM provide limited spatial data in comparison to the coverage that can be obtained remotely. Ocean color remote sensing complements field measurements by providing estimates of the spatial distributions of surface SPM concentration in natural waters, with high spatial and temporal resolution. Existing methods to obtain SPM from remote sensing vary between purely empirical ones to those that are based on radiative transfer theory together with empirical inputs regarding the optical properties of SPM. Most algorithms use a single satellite band that is switched to other bands for different ranges of turbidity. The necessity to switch bands is due to the saturation of reflectance as SPM concentration increases. Here we propose a multi-band approach for SPM retrievals that also provides an estimate of uncertainty, where the latter is based on both uncertainties in reflectance and in the assumed optical properties of SPM. The approach proposed is general and can be applied to any ocean color sensor or in-situ radiometer system with red and near-infra-red bands. We apply it to six globally distributed in-situ datasets of spectral water reflectance and SPM measurements over a wide range of SPM concentrations collected in estuaries and coastal environments (the focus regions of our study). Results show good performance for SPM retrieval at all ranges of concentration. As with all algorithms, better performance may be achieved by constraining empirical assumptions to specific environments. To demonstrate the flexibility of the algorithm we apply it to a remote sensing scene from an environment with highly variable sediment concentrations.


MW algorithm Matlab script is available at: