Open Journal Systems

Water clarity patterns in South Florida coastal waters and their linkages to synoptic-scale wind forcing

Douglas E Pirhalla, Scott C Sheridan, Cameron C Lee, Brian B Barnes, Varis Ransibrahmanakul, Chuanmin Hu

Article ID: 189
Vol 2, Issue 1, 2017, Article identifier:26-40

VIEWS - 615 (Abstract) 249 (PDF)


Temporal variability in water clarity for South Florida’s marine ecosystems was examined through satellite-derived light attenuation (Kd) coefficients, in the context of wind- and weather patterns. Reduced water clarity along Florida’s coasts is often the result of abrupt wind-resuspension events and other exogenous factors linked to frontal passage, storms, and precipitation. Kd data between 1998 and 2013 were synthesized to form a normalized Kd index (KDI) and subsequently compared with Self Organizing Map (SOM)-based wind field categorizations to reveal spatiotemporal patterns and their inter-relationships. Kd climatological maximums occur from October through December along southern sections of the West Florida Shelf (WFS) and from January through March along the Florida Straits. Spatial clusters of elevated Kd occur along 3 spatial domains: central WFS, southern WFS, and Florida Straits near the Florida Reef Tract, where intra-seasonal variability is the highest, and clarity patterns are associated with transitional wind patterns sequenced with cyclonic circulation. Temporal wind transitions from southerly to northerly, typically accompanying frontal passages, most often result in elevated Kd response. Results demonstrate the potential of using synoptic climatological analysis and satellite indices for tracking variability in water clarity and other indicators related to biological health.

Full Text:



Barnes B B, Hu C, Schaeffer B A, et al. (2013). MODIS-derived spatiotemporal water clarity patterns in optically shallow Florida Keys waters: A new approach to remove bottom contamination. Remote Sensing of Environment, 134: 377–391.

Barnes B B and Hu C. (2015). Cross-sensor continuity of satellite derived water clarity in the Gulf of Mexico: insights into temporal aliasing and implications for long-term water clarity assessment. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 53(4): 1761–1772.

Biber P D, Paerl H W, and Gallegos C L. (2005). Evaluating Indicators of Seagrass Stress to Light. In S A Bortone (Ed.), Estuarine Indicators. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Cassano E N, Gilsan J M, Cassano J J, et al. (2015). Self-organizing map analysis of widespread temperature extremes in Alaska and Canada. Climate Research, 62: 199–218.

Cavazos T. (1999). Large-scale circulation anomalies conducive to extreme precipitation events and derivation of daily rainfall in northeastern Mexico and southeastern Texas. Journal of Climate, 12: 1506–1523.;2.

Chen Z, Muller-Karger F E and Hu C (2007). Remote sensing of water clarity in Tampa Bay. Remote Sensing of Environment, 109:249–259.

Conmy R N, Coble P G, Cannizzaro J P, et al. (2009). Influence of extreme storm events on West Florida shelf CDOM distributions. Journal of Geophysical Research, 114(G4): G00F04.

Del Castillo C E, Gilbes F, Coble P G, et al. (2000). On the dispersal of riverine colored dissolved organic matter over the West Florida Shelf. Limnology and Oceanography, 45(6): 1425–1432.

Fabricius K E, Logan M, Weeks S J, et al. (2016). Changes in water clarity in response to river discharges on the Great Barrier Reef continental shelf: 2002–2013. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, vol.173: A1–A15.

Gramer L J. (2013). Dynamics of sea temperature variability on Florida's reef tract. Open Access Dissertations. Paper 1083.

Gramer L J, Johns E M, Hendee J C, et al. (2008). Characterization of biologically significant hydrodynamic anomalies on the Florida Reef Tract, Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 7-11 July 2008. 1: 477-481.

Hedley J D, Roelfsema C M, Chollett I, et al. (2016). Remote sensing of coral reefs for monitoring and management: A review. Remote Sensing, vol.8(2): 118.

Hewitson B C and Crane R G. (2002). Self-organizing maps: Applications to synoptic climatology. Climate Research, 22(1): 13–26.

Hu C, Hackett K E, Callahan M K, et al. (2003). The 2002 ocean color anomaly in the Florida Bight: A cause of local coral reef decline? Geophysical Research Letters, 30(3): 1151.

Hu C, Muller-Karger F E, Vargo G A, et al. (2004). Linkages between coastal runoff and the Florida Keys ecosystem: A study of a dark plume event. Geophysical Research Letters, 31(15): L15307.

Hu C, Muller-Karger F E and Swarzenski P W. (2006). Hurricanes, submarine groundwater discharge, and Florida’s red tides. Geophysical Research Letters, 33(11): L11601.

Hu C, Barnes B B, Murch B, et al. (2014). Satellite-based virtual buoy system to monitor coastal water quality. Optical Engineering, 53(5): 051402.

Kohonen T. (1995). Self-organizing Maps. Vol. 30, Springer series In Information Sciences. Springer-Verlag: Berlin. pp. 362.

Kunkel K E, Karl T R, Brooks H, et al. (2013). Monitoring and understanding changes in extreme storm statistics: State of knowledge. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 94: 499–514.

Lee C C, Sheridan S C , Barnes B B, et al. (2016). The development of a non-linear auto-regressive model with exogenous input (NARX) to model climate-water clarity relationships: reconstructing an historical water clarity index for the coastal waters of the southeastern US. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, in press.

Le C F, Hu C, English D, et al. (2013). Climate-driven chlorophyll a changes in a turbid estuary: Observation from satellites and implications for management. Remote Sensing Environment, 130: 11–24.

Lee T N, Johns E, Wilson D, et al. (2002). Transport processes linking south Florida coastal ecosystems. In J W Porter and K G Porter (Eds.), The Everglades, Florida Bay, and Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys, An Ecosystem Source Book. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. 309–342.

Lee Z, Darecki M, Carder K L, et al. (2005). Diffuse attenuation coefficient of downwelling irradiance: An evaluation of remote sensing methods. Journal of Geophysical Re-search — Oceans, 110(C2).

Lee Z, Lubac B, Werdell J, et al. (2009). An update of the quasi-analytical algorithm (QAA_v5). Retrieved from

Leeworthy V R, Wiley P C and Hospital J. (2004). Importance-satisfaction ratings five-year comparison, SPA & ER use, and socioeconomic and ecological monitoring com-parison of results 1995-96 to 2000-01. Silver Spring, MD: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Office of Management and Budget, Special Projects Division.

Lirman D, Schopmeyer S, Manzello D, et al. (2011). Severe 2010 cold-water event caused unprecedented mortality to corals of the Florida Reef tract and reversed previous survivorship patterns. PLoS ONE, 6(8): e23047.

Liu Y and Weisberg R H. (2012). Seasonal variability on the West Florida Shelf. Progress in Oceanography, 104: 80–98.

Lohrenz S E, Wiesenburg D A, Arnone R A, et al. (1999). What controls primary production in the Gulf of Mexico? In H Kumpf, K Steidinger, and K Sherman (Eds.), The Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem: Assessment. Malden, MA: Blackwell Science, Inc. p. 151–170.

Martinez C J, Maleski J J, and Miller M F. (2012). Trends in precipitation and temperature in Florida, USA. Journal of Hydrology, 452–453: 259–281.

MATLAB. (2015). Cluster with Self-Organizing Map with Neural Network. Retrieved from

McPherson M, Hill V J, Zimmerman R C, et al. (2011). The optical properties of Greater Florida Bay: Implications for seagrass abundance. Estuaries and Coasts, 34: 1150–1160.

Mesinger F, DiMego G, Kalnay E, et al. (2006). North American regional reanalysis. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol.87: 343–360.

Mitchum G T and Sturges W. (1982). Wind-driven currents on the West Florida Shelf. Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol.12: 1310–1317.;2.

Neely M B, Bartels E, Cannizzaro J, et al. (2004). Florida’s Black Water Event. In K A Steidinger, J H Landsberg, C R Tomas, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Harmful Algae, Saint Petersburg Beach, FL, USA, 21–25 October 2002. Florida Marine Research In-stitute: Saint Petersburg, FL, USA. pp. 377–379.

Obeysekera J, Park J, Irizarry-Ortiz M, et al. (2011). Past and Projected Trends in Climate and Sea Level for South Florida. Interdepartmental Climate Change Group. South Florida Water Management District, West Palm Beach, Florida, Hydrologic and Environmental Systems Modeling Technical Report. July 5, 2011.

Palandro D, Hu C, Andréfouët S, et al. (2004). Synoptic water clarity assessment in the Florida Keys using diffuse at-tenuation coefficient estimated from Landsat imagery. In D G Fautin, J A Westfall, P Cartwrigh, et al. (Eds.), Coelen-terate biology 2003. Netherlands: Springer. pp. 489–493.

Pirhalla D E, Sheridan S C, Ransibrahmanakul V, et al. (2015). Assessing cold-snap and mortality events in South Florida Coastal ecosystems: Development of a biological cold stress index using Satellite SST and Weather Pattern Forcing. Estuaries and Coasts, 38(6): 2310–2323.

Ransibrahmanakul V and Stumpf R P. (2002). The use of AVHRR for estimating spatially varying critical wind stress in Florida Bay. Journal of Coastal Research, 18(2): 267–273.

Roberts K, Collins J M, Paxton C H, et al. (2014). Weather patterns associated with green turtle hypothermic stunning events in St. Joseph Bay and Mosquito Lagoon, FL. Physical Geography,35(2): 2014.

Sheridan S C, Pirhalla D P, Lee C C, et al. (2012). Evaluating linkages of weather patterns and water quality responses in South Florida using a Synoptic Climatological Approach. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 52: 425–438.

Sheridan S C and Lee C C. (2011). The self-organizing map in synoptic climatological research. Progress in Physical Geography, 35(1): 109–119

(615 Abstract Views, 249 PDF Downloads)


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Satellite Oceanography and Meteorology