Oceanographic & Atmospheric Remote Sensing

With the development of a physical oceanography program at CSI, the need to put site-specific measurements into a larger spatial context became imperative. Satellite-based remote sensing data were beginning to fill that need by the late 1970s (Huh et al., 1978). In 1988 Dr. Oscar Huh started the Earth Scan Laboratory (ESL) within CSI with a grant from Louisiana's Educational Quality Enhancement Fund. The ESL is a direct broadcast ground station and remote sensing laboratory that receives and processes real-time environmental satellite data using three antenna on LSU rooftops. This station was first on the Gulf coast to receive NOAA AVHRR images. ESL capabilities have expanded to include real-time reception and processing of data from five additional satellite sensors; including GOES GVAR, Orbview-2 SeaWiFS, Terra-1 and Aqua-1 MODIS, Oceansat-1 OCM and SAR (synthetic aperture radar). The ESL houses a large archive of environmental satellite data dating back to 1988.The real-time measurements and the archives of satellite data kept by the ESL are invaluable for researchers from many disciplines and for the state of Louisiana emergency response officials. Data from the ESL have been especially useful for:

  • studying and predicting the behavior of the Loop Current and its eddies in the Gulf of Mexico;
  • tracking and predicting the paths of hurricanes (real time data for emergency response planning;
  • tracking oil spills;
  • mapping sediment plume responses to various natural forcing events;
  • studying circulation and biological impacts of river discharges along the northern Gulf coastline and in interior bays;
  • mapping onshore flooded areas.

Many applications are still to be discovered. As Louisiana relies on controlled river diversions to help offset the effects of subsidence and land loss, remote sensing products from the ESL will certainly play an important project assessment role. In many areas of research, remotely sensed satellite data have become essential. The ESL will hopefully play an increasingly important role for CSI as well as other research groups as we move into the second half-century of research at the Institute. Near real time data are accessible on the Earth Scan Lab website.

image: spatial extent of river sedimentsimage: chlorophyll distributionphoto: band tracking antenna