A Pre-operational System for Satellite Monitoring of Great Barrier Reef Marine Water Quality

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King, Edward; Schroeder, Thomas; Brando, Vittorio; Suber, Ken

King, Edward; Schroeder, Thomas; Brando, Vittorio; Suber, Ken



56 p

This report describes the implementation and validation of a pre-operational system for monitoring marine water quality in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon using optical satellite observations. The work was undertaken by CSIRO supporting, and in consultation with, the Bureau of Meteorology in the context of Phase 1 of the eReefs GBR Information System partnership. It completes the requirements for Deliverable 2.1 in the SIEF funding agreement for eReefs, namely: “CSIRO software and documentation installed in the Bureau (or NCI), enabling production of marine water quality indices from near real-time and archive satellite data”. The system builds upon an IMOS-supported framework in which satellite imagery, from the NASA MODIS/Aqua instrument, is processed to standard top-of-atmosphere products. The system has been deployed at a high performance computing facility to enable rapid processing of time series. CSIRO-developed algorithms are applied to correct for the affect of the atmosphere and retrieve estimates of concentrations of various in-water constituents, including Chlorophyll and suspended sediments. The data products, presented as spatial maps at (up to) daily frequency, can then be used to assess the conditions affecting the reef. The Bureau has replicated the key parts of the CSIRO system in-house and developed a web-based marine water quality dashboard to deliver these data to end-users and the public. In future, these data will also provide a boundary condition for hydrodynamic modelling of the GBR lagoonal waters that is being developed as a parallel activity in the eReefs project. While the initial transfer of the system was achieved in 2012, an upgrade to the algorithms and parameterisation was delivered to the Bureau in September 2013. The validation of these upgraded algorithms is discussed. The work completed in Phase 1 represents several important strategic steps towards developing scientifically rigorous national environmental information systems. The migration of validated research-grade algorithms from desktop computers into a mass-production environment enables the operation of these systems at scale over large areas and decadal time series. The subsequent transfer of these systems from a research platform to the Bureau’s operational environment has been a process of discovery (for both partners) of expectations and practices. The new system, and the relationships developed between the CSIRO and Bureau partners, has laid a foundation for the delivery of planned future upgrades to the algorithms. Work is already underway within CSIRO to improve the characterisation of the water properties more widely in the GBR, and to extend the support to new and forthcoming satellite sensors beyond Aqua/MODIS.

CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship

Hobart, Tas

remote sensing; great barrier reef; modis; chlorophyll

Biological Oceanography; Natural Resource Management

Published Version (pdf) (2.82MB)


This report has been placed on the CSIRO repository and may be made available to persons outside of CSIRO for non commercial purposes, in its entirety and without deletion of disclaimers and copyright information.


Client Report (Author)


King, Edward; Schroeder, Thomas; Brando, Vittorio; Suber, Ken. A Pre-operational System for Satellite Monitoring of Great Barrier Reef Marine Water Quality. Hobart, Tas: CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship; 2014. csiro:EP144849. https://doi.org/10.4225/08/584ee6e3e6d42

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