Estuarine-Shelf Exchange Using Landsat Images of Discharge Plumes


  • Scott P. Dinnel
  • William W. Schroeder
  • William J. Wiseman, Jr.


Estuarine-shelf water exchange, river discharge, estuarine exchange, estuarine discharge plume, Landsat data, plume morphology, suspended sediment transport


Landsat satellite data can provide descriptions of discharge plume morphology, as well as estimates of estuarine-shelf suspended sediment exchange. Thirty-three images, collected over an 11-year period, of the Mobile Bay, Alabama, discharge plume were analyzed in conjunction with environmental data. Plume size was principally controlled by river discharge but modified by the tides. Suspended sediment transport estimates based on plume size suggest that the annual suspended sediment load from Mobile Bay to the adjacent shelf can be exchanged during an average five-month cold front season and an average spring flood. Wind-wave resuspension of Mobile Bay sediments during frontal passage and direct river borne suspended sediments are the two major sources of suspended sediment transported to the shelf.