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HABs: Identification and Monitoring

HAB Identification and Monitoring: Overview

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are a concern throughout the coastal areas of the United States. They are known to cause human illness and death, fish kills and marine mammal deaths. HABs are identified and monitored by assessing surface chlorophyll concentrations detected by satellite imagery, coupled with data collected by research vessels. Forecasting would improve predictions of bloom movement and landfall, persistence, and toxicity. These predictions will aid resource managers, industry and the public. For more information on regional HAB applications, please follow the links above (Texas, Florida, Olympic Region).

HABs: Using SeaWiFs Data

GOM SeaWiFs image
Nov. 7, 2002, SeaWiFs image (20023111819), completely clear along the entire US coast of the Gulf of Mexico; Vera Cruz Mexico to the Keys (with one cloud at Looe Key)

Ocean color observations from satellite allow researchers to detect and monitor for HABs, such as K. brevis, that dominate the phytoplankton biomass. The SeaWiFS sensor provides the first of several sensors suitable for this purpose. Work is being conducted on spectral and optical signatures. Accurate determination of chlorophyll from satellite imagery will aid in HAB monitoring. Also, near-daily coverage is essential to assure sufficient usable imagery to document the blooms.

SeaWiFS is currently being used for routine monitoring of harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. On the Florida coast, the satellite imagery has provided advanced detection of blooms, allowing the state and local officials to better direct resources for sampling.

Additional NCCOS projects relating to this topic are: