Assessment of Minnesota Lakes Using Satellite Imagery

Project Staff: 

Principal Investigators: Patrick L. Brezonik, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, and Marvin E. Bauer, Professor, Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory and Department of Forest Resources

Additional Staff: Leif G. Olmanson, Scientist, Water Resources Center and Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory; Katherine Erdman, Research Assistant, Water Resources Science Program, University of Minnesota


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, NASA (RESAC program)

Project Duration: 

June 2001 - June 2003


Satellite-based sensing techniques are being developed in this research initiative as a cost-effective way to gather information for water quality and aquatic vegetation assessments in lake-rich areas like Minnesota. Our research has evolved over the last few years as new high-resolution satellite imagery and improved computer hardware and software have increased the potential opportunities. In our current efforts we have expanded the satellite-based lake assessments statewide, and with colleagues in neighboring states, we have facilitated the use of these methods over the Upper Great Lakes region as a whole. In a further effort to advance the routine use of remote sensing for water clarity assessments, we developed a standardized image processing procedure. With these procedures we are developing a comprehensive lake clarity database for Minnesota. To date we have assessed the clarity of over 10,000 Minnesota lakes for the ~1990 and ~2000 time periods. These data are being used to assess spatial and temporal patterns in lake water clarity based on surrounding land use/cover using a geographical information system (GIS) to link lake clarity data and land-use features. We also have been examining the potential of new satellites with better spatial resolution or temporal coverage for lake quality assessments. Recently, we have been examining the potential use of satellite imagery for aquatic plant surveys of water bodies. This part of the project will evaluate the capability of high-resolution satellite imagery for use in mapping and classifying aquatic plant groups and thus gain a better understanding of these ecosystems.