Cornell Summer Satellite Remote Sensing Training Program

Cornell Summer Satellite Remote Sensing Training Program
June 4-15, 2018, Cornell University, Ithaca New York

A two-week summer satellite remote sensing training program is being offered once again to marine scientists who have modest or no prior experience with satellite remote sensing techniques. The training program is highly methods-oriented and intended to give participants the practical skills needed to work independently to acquire, analyze and visualize large data sets derived from a wide range of ocean satellite sensors.

Strong emphasis is given to ocean color remote sensing and the use of NASA’s SeaDAS software to derive mapped imagery of geophysical parameters (e.g., chlorophyll or CDOM) from raw SeaWiFS, MODIS, MERIS, VIIRS and OLCI (Sentinal-3) data sets.  Pre-written python scripts will be used in conjunction with SeaDAS to batch process large quantities of ocean color data from Level-1 to Level-3.

Developing good Python programming skills needed for data analysis and visualization is a central component of this course.  The course also addresses the acquisition and use of Level-3 satellite data products for sea surface temperature, ocean wind speed and sea surface height.

NOTE:  The Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program (OCB) at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has offered to provided financial support for up to five highly qualified participants to this training program. Applying for OCB support is done independent of the satellite program enrollment process. See the OCB link below for details.

For more information about the training program content and enrollment process:


Email:   Bruce Monger (

For information about OCB financial support:


Email: Heather Benway (

NASA: Reconstructing the Recent History of Pacific Ocean Life

November 17, 2017

Through several decades of observations, oceanographers have found that the tropical Pacific accounts for about 20 percent of all primary ocean productivity. They also have found that the physics of that ocean basin—the way temperatures, winds, and currents stir up the water—strongly influences the biology moreso than in other parts of the global ocean.

But does the biology of the tropical Pacific change over time and, if so, how does it change? Satellite-based studies of ocean color over the past two decades have revealed some regional, seasonal, and annual patterns. But the large-scale patterns across multiple years and decades are much harder to decipher because of the short record of observations.

New research led by Stephanie Schollaert Uz (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) and colleagues could help ocean scientists better understand how patterns can change over time and how they might respond to a changing climate. The research team has built a statistical reconstruction of Pacific chlorophyll measurements dating back to 1958. It is the first basin-wide, monthly view of chlorophyll changes in the era of modern oceanographic measurements.

Chlorophyll has been measured consistently by satellites for the past 20 years. (There were some early, limited measurements in the late 1970s and 80s.) Chlorophyll is a proxy measurement for phytoplankton—floating, microscopic plant-like organisms that form the center of the marine food web; that is, they are the primary producers on which other organisms feed.

Like plants on land, phytoplankton use chlorophyll to harness sunlight for energy, so the abundance of chlorophyll tells us the abundance of phytoplankton. Furthermore, the location of phytoplankton usually tells us where we can find zooplankton, fish, and higher marine animals that consume them. This primary productivity also plays a key role in producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The maps above show chlorophyll anomalies in the equatorial Pacific Ocean; that is, how much the concentration of chlorophyll (and therefore phytoplankton) was above or below the long-term norm for the region. (Shades of blue represent less chlorophyll, while stronger greens show areas with more.) The maps are based on the reconstruction developed by Schollaert Uz and colleagues. They highlight a strong La Niña event in 1973, a very strong, basin-wide El Niño in 1982, and a strong Central Pacific El Niño in 1987.

In the tropical Pacific Ocean, sunlight is abundant year round, unlike other regions where changing seasons mean more or less light for phytoplankton. With consistent sunlight, the limiting variable for tropical phytoplankton is the amount of nutrients available near the surface—which is driven by how water is moved by currents and winds.

The “normal” state of the tropical Pacific Ocean has a warm, fresh pool of biologically unproductive water on the surface of the Western Pacific, while cooler, nutrient-rich water wells up in the Eastern Pacific. El Niño and La Niña events shift that balance. La Niña conditions spread the cooler, nutrient-rich waters farther westward across the Pacific, promoting phytoplankton growth across a wider area. El Niño brings much warmer water toward the Central and Eastern Pacific, shutting down the nutrient supply and much of the phytoplankton growth. Eastern Niños tend to suppress growth across the entire basin, while the effects of Central Niños are much more localized.

Schollaert Uz and colleagues constructed their statistical model by taking more than 11 years of real-world measurements from the SeaWiFS instrument and correlating them to other data and models of ocean conditions. They then compiled known measurements of sea surface temperatures and heights in the tropical Pacific dating back to 1958 and reconstructed what chlorophyll concentrations should have looked like every month for fifty years.

“Direct observations are best, but basin-wide observations of sea-surface chlorophyll do not exist before consistent ocean color measurements began in 1997,” said Schollaert Uz. “We took advantage of the fact that Earth is a coupled system, in which tropical Pacific Ocean biology is largely controlled by physics, and used the longer physical records to reconstruct a large-scale view of chlorophyll.”

The reconstruction will allow researchers to examine and extrapolate conditions during El Niño and La Niña events that were not captured by satellite. Several studies have shown, for instance, that winds and ocean upwelling might have been more or less intense in the 1950s through the 1970s, but there is no corresponding ocean color data to demonstrate how that affected biology. The new statistical model offers a look into the recent past that could ultimately help us better see the future.


NASA: Ocean Green, Blooming Ocean

EO Kids

These tiny organisms do big things for our #LivingPlanet. Learn more about our Ocean Green with #EOkids

EO Kids, a publication from the Earth Observatory, highlights science stories for a younger audience. In our new edition, we explore the swirling seas of phytoplankton blooms and invite kids to create their own NASA science visualization by making a flipbook. Read about how these tiny organisms are making a big impact on our living Earth. Flip through the pages and see the ocean change color as phytoplankton blooms and the land changes between brown and green as the seasons change. Watch as the Earth comes alive with the flip of a page.

Download the PDF at the following link

NASA: Our Living Planet From Space

13 Nov 2017

Life. It’s the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we’ve discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. Earth is still the only planet we know of with life – with that in mind, our habitable home world seems evermore fragile and beautiful when considering the vastness of unlivable space.

Read more at NASA GMS

Spatial distribution of phytoplankton along the Sunda Islands: The monsoon anomaly in 1998

Asanuma, I., K. Matsumoto, H. Okano, T. Kawano, N. Hendiatri, and S.I. Sachoemar (2003): Spatial distribution of phytoplankton along the Sunda Islands: The monsoon anomaly in 1998. J. Geophys. Res., 108 (C6), 3202, doi:10.1029/1999JC000139.


Recent ocean color and microwave observations are used to assess the spatial distribution of phytoplankton blooming relative to monsoons along the Sunda Islands. In 1997 and 1999, during the northwest monsoon the eastward South Java Current (SJC) along the Sunda Islands restrained the flows from the straits along the Sunda Islands and ceased blooming. During the southeast monsoon the westward South Equatorial Current (SEC) and the southeasterly wind generated cyclonic eddies along the Sunda Islands. The blooming was observed over those cyclonic eddies, where nutrients were entrained to the surface. In 1998, through the northwest to the southeast monsoon the eastward currents were flowing away from the coast. During the southeast monsoon the SEC was not observed. Through 1998, cyclonic eddies were observed along the Sunda Islands in consequence of these anomalies. The distribution of currents is defined for the monsoon anomaly in 1998. (1) The eastward SJC flowed away from the coast in the northwest monsoon. (2) No westward SEC was observed in the southeast monsoon. (3) The eastward SJC restrained the flow from the straits in the southeast monsoon. (4) Chlorophyll a ∼1 mg m−3 were observed along the Sunda Islands through the year. This monsoon anomaly is hypothesized as a result of anomalies in the distribution of pressure systems between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean following to the El Niño.


  • phytoplankton;
  • chlorophyll;
  • ocean color;
  • remote sensing;
  • Indonesia;
  • through flow

Upwelling along the coasts of Java and Sumatra and its relation to ENSO

R. Dwi Susanto,Arnold L. Gordon,Quanan Zheng,2001. Upwelling along the coasts of Java and Sumatra and its relation to ENSO. Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 28, Issue 8, pages 1599–1602, 15 April 2001.


Upwelling along the Java-Sumatra Indian Ocean coasts is a response to regional winds associated with the monsoon climate. The upwelling center with low sea surface temperature migrates westward and toward the equator during the southeast monsoon (June to October). The migration path depends on the seasonal evolution of alongshore winds and latitudinal changes in the Coriolis parameter. Upwelling is eventually terminated due to the reversal of winds associated with the onset of the northwest monsoon and impingement of Indian Ocean equatorial Kelvin waves. Significant interannual variability of the Java-Sumatra upwelling is linked to ENSO through the Indonesian throughflow (ITF) and by anomalous easterly wind. During El Niño episodes, the Java-Sumatra upwelling extends in both time (into November) and space (closer to the equator). During El Nino (La Niña), the ITF carries colder (warmer) water shallowing (deepening) thermocline depth and enhancing (reducing) upwelling strength.


  • Information Related to Geographic Region: Indian Ocean
  • Oceanography: General: Equatorial oceanography
  • Oceanography: General: Upwelling and convergences
  • Oceanography: Physical: El Nino

Red Tide Blooms Observed by GOCI

This past summer, the fishing industry in South Korea was severely damaged by large scale red tide Cochlodinium blooms that formed along the entire south and east coasts of Korea. The Korea Ocean Satellite Center (KOSC) of KIOST (Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology) continuously monitored and analysed satellite images from GOCI (Geostationary Ocean Color Imager) to determine the rates of transport and diffusion of the bloom. The analysis results were sent to government agencies and related organizations in an effort to mitigate the damage from the red tide bloom.

GOCI red-tide
Image from red tide analyses by GOCI at 12:16:43 KST on
13 August 2013.

This year, the red tide patches had low radiance values in the short wavelengths (i.e. GOCI Bands 1, 2, and 3, for the 400 – 500 nm range), and high radiance values at 680 nm due to the increased fluorescence and backscatter. For this reason, red tide patches can be detected using these spectral features. Small scale red tide blooms were first discovered on 13 July 2013 in the South Sea area and they gradually moved into the East Sea of Korea and expanded further north (up to about 39 °N) and then to the open sea near the East Sea of Korea. According to in situ data, the density of Cochlodinium reached ~7,000 cells per ml in the high concentration areas of the red tide blooms.

Source: IOCCG,

Detection of HABs in Southeast Asia by Remote Sensing: Operational Warning and Regional Monitoring Protocols

The Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK) will be hosting the Annual Challenger Society and RSPSoc – Marine Optics Special Interest Group meeting on 16-17 December 2013. The meeting will focus on the science and technology behind optical marine measurements collected both in situ and remotely, and their application to marine biogeochemistry.

A training course in Detection of HABs in Southeast Asia by Remote Sensing: Operational Warning and Regional Monitoring Protocols will be offered by the Nippon Foundation/POGO AWI Center of Excellence and will take place at the University of the Philippines from 24 to 15 March 2014. The course is open to 15-20 participants from developing countries within SE Asia area. See for more information.

Source: IOCCG

Online volunteers map Philippines after typhoon Haiyan

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team coordinates mapping effort after enormous storm devastated country

The Guardian, 15 Nov 2013

More than 700 volunteers have collaborated to provide rescue workers with high quality maps of areas in the Philippines hit by typhoon Haiyan.

Working on OpenStreetMap, a collaboratively created map of the world – like Wikipedia, but for cartographers – the volunteers have made over 1.5m changes, providing information for humanitarian aid workers on the ground and updating maps to reflect damage from the storm.

The work is co-ordinated by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a volunteer group which lets disaster relief workers set tasks for mapmakers at home. Users who want to help out can log-in to the tasking manager, where they are presented with a list of requests from the team.

Most of these are as simple as tracing the road network of an affected area from pre-existing satellite imagery. One asks users to trace the backbone road network for Masbate Island, in the north of the affected area; another asks the state of buildings and roads in Roxas City, in the west.

The biggest tasks call for huge areas to be covered in exacting detail using pictures of what the area looks like after the storm.

“Use new satellite imagery to trace buildings, infrastructure, areas, natural features and other important visible features of the city of Ormoc,” lists one requests, as well as “map the current state of Tacloban City area after Typhoon Haiyan inflicted heavy damage to buildings, infrastructure and areas”.

With post-typhoon satellite imagery, the volunteers have the task of checking their traced maps against the reality of the situation on the ground. Structures can be marked as damaged or destroyed, and so the volunteers can begin the odd work of undoing the mapping they have already done.

Already, the mapping is showing results. A picture shared by the Red Cross’s Robert Banick shows the massive increase in detail on a map of Tacloban City after volunteers started filling in the gaps:

OpenStreetMap effects
‘After’ map shows details provided after volunteers have filled in the gaps.. Photograph: https:/

The Red Cross has been using volunteers to improve their maps of under-charted areas since the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

Then, OpenStreetMap users improved maps of Port-au-Prince from the barest outline of the major roads in the area to a fully-detailed map of all the roads in the city and its outlying slums .

Thanks to the efforts of the HOT, responders on the ground have been provided with daily updated downloads for GPS systems, and can use the Field Papers service to print physical atlases of the area, for places where connectivity may be low to non-existent.



Second IOCCG Summer Lecture Series

Applications are now open for the Second IOCCG Summer Lecture Series, which will take place in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France from 21 July to 2 August 2014. This course is dedicated to high-level training in the fundamentals of ocean optics, bio-optics and ocean colour remote sensing. A number of distinguished scientists have been invited to provide lectures on cutting edge research, focusing on current critical issues in ocean colour science. Students will be given ample opportunity to meet with the lecturers for in-depth discussions on various pre-selected topics, as well as their own scientific research. As was done for the past Summer Lecture Series, all the lectures will be video recorded and made available online. These recorded lectures are a valuable training resource and have been downloaded thousands of times by students from around the world.

Further information about the course, as well as the application forms, can be found at: The deadline for applications is 14 March 2014.