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EPA/ORD/NHEERL Naval Research Laboratory. Application of Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) Imagery for coastal and ocean protection- A case study from Florida. Jessica Aukamp USEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division Donald Cobb USEPA/NHEERL/Atlantic Ecology Division

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epa ord nheerl naval research laboratory

Naval Research Laboratory

Application of Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) Imagery for coastal and ocean protection- A case study from Florida

Jessica Aukamp USEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division

Donald Cobb USEPA/NHEERL/Atlantic Ecology Division

Robyn Conmy USEPA/National Risk Management

Research Laboratory/Land Remediation

and Pollution Control

George Craven USEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division

Richard Gould Naval Research Laboratory/ Bio-optical

Physical Processes and Remote Sensing


James Hagy USEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division

Darryl Keith* USEPA/NHEERL/Atlantic Ecology Division

John LehrterUSEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division

Ross LunettaUSEPA/National Exposure Research

Laboratory/Environmental Services Division

Michael Murrell USEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division

Kenneth Rocha USEPA/NHEERL/Atlantic Ecology Division

Blake Schaeffer USEPA/NHEERL/Gulf Ecology Division

*email: [email protected]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to protect human health and the environment requires innovative and sustainable solutions for addressing the Nation’s environmental problems.

HICO offers EPA and the environmental monitoring community an unprecedented opportunity to observe changes in coastal and estuarine water quality across a range of spatial and temporal scales not possible with field-based monitoring.

Program objectives

Use HICO imagery to develop a novel space-based environmental monitoring system that provides information for the sustainable management of coastal ecosystems.

Provide the foundation for a technology which EPA Regional Offices and Office of Water can use to report water quality conditions nationwide through media outlets and Smartphone applications.

Water quality news reports will change the social and economic dynamics for the Nation to not only be aware of its water quality conditions but support sustainable practices to improve those conditions.

Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO)
  • Sponsored as an Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) of Office of Naval Research
  • January 2007: HICO selected to fly on the International Space Station (ISS)‏
  • November, 2007: construction began following the Critical Design Review
  • August, 2008: sensor integration completed
  • April, 2009: shipped to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for launch
  • September 10, 2009: HICO launched on JAXA H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)‏
  • September 24, 2009: HICO installed on ISS Japanese Module Exposed Facility
  • HICO sensor
    • is first spaceborne imaging spectrometer designed to sample coastal oceans
    • samples coastal regions at 100 m (380 to 1000 nm: at 5.7 nm bandwidth)‏
    • has high signal-to-noise ratio to resolve the complexity of the coastal ocean

Left,HICO, before integration into HREP. Rightred arrow shows location of HREP on the JEM-EF.

HICO is integrated and flown under the direction of DoD’s Space Test Program

Arnone et al., (2009) HICO for NASA Gulf Workshop

HICO docked at ISS


& camera

HICO in static mode

Arnone et al., (2009) HICO for NASA Gulf Workshop

HICO Viewing Slit




Spectral Range

380 to 960 nm

All water-penetrating wavelengths plus Near Infrared for atmospheric correction

Spectral Channel Width

5.7 nm

Sufficient to resolve spectral features

Number of Spectral



Derived from Spectral Range and

Spectral Channel Width

Signal-to-Noise Ratio

for water-penetrating


> 200 to 1

for 5% albedo scene

(10 nm spectral binning)‏

Provides adequate Signal to Noise Ratio after atmospheric removal

Polarization Sensitivity

< 5%

Sensor response to be insensitive to polarization of light from scene

Ground Sample Distance at Nadir

~100 meters

Adequate for scale of selected coastal ocean features

Scene Size

~50 x 200 km

Large enough to capture the scale of coastal dynamics

Cross-track pointing

+45 to -30 deg

To increase scene access frequency

Scenes per orbit

1 maximum

Data volume and transmission constraints

Arnone et al., (2009) HICO for NASA Gulf Workshop

Program Implementation

Collected HICO images from 2010-2012 from coastal and estuarine waters along northeastern Gulf of Mexico (specifically NW Florida)

Collected in situ hyperspectraldata and water quality samples from these waters concurrent with ISS overflights via autonomous underwater vehicles and small boat surveys

Choctowhatchee Bay

Pensacola Bay

St. Andrew Bay

St. Joseph Bay

Optical Components of a Coastal Scene

Multiple light paths

  • Scattering due to:
    • atmosphere
    • aerosols
    • water surface
    • suspended particles
    • bottom
  • Absorption due to:
    • atmosphere
    • aerosols
    • suspended particles
    • dissolved matter
Step 1

Open HICO Level 1b Image with calibrated TOA

at-sensor radiances

HICO Image Processing

Step 2

Recover true at-sensor radiance values

Step 3

Sun glint correction

Step 4

Offshore pixel subtraction

Step 5

Convert from W/m2/um/sr to uW/cm2/nm/sr

Determine Mean Solar Irradiance (F0)

Step 6

Convert at-sensor Radiance to Reflectance

Determine diffuse transmittance from sun to pixel (t0)

Step 7

Convert at-sensor Radiance to Remote sensing Reflectance

Create GLT + Geolocated + Warped Images

Steps 8 - 9

Cloud removal (if needed)

Clip estuary shapefile to Warped image

Step 10

Export clipped Rrs data to EXCEL

Step 11



Processing done with Excelis VIS ENVI 4.7 software




Step 1: Level 1b calibrated radiance

Step 3:Seabed corrected radiance (W/m2/um/sr)

Step 5:Offshore pixel subtraction (W/m2/um/sr)

Step 7: Remotely sensed Reflectance (1/sr)


49 HICO images covering the period March 2010 – May 2012 from four estuaries along the Florida Panhandle area have been processed for chlorophyll a concentration and colored dissolved organic matter absorption (CDOM) using algorithms developed from in situ spectral and water data.

To date, the regional and local distribution of chlorophyll a and CDOM absorption in these images have been field validated and are statistically significant. Future activities will include field validation of algorithms for water clarity, suspended sediments concentration, light attenuation and salinity.

The HICO-derived water quality data have been uploaded to a internal EPA HICO website for review and use by the EPA Office of Water.

A prototype mobile application has been completed.