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Open-File Report 2010–1120

Prepared in cooperation with Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park and Florida Springs Initiative

Thermal Imaging of the Waccasassa Bay Preserve: Image Acquisition and Processing

By Ellen A. Raabe and Elzbieta Bialkowska-Jelinska

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Thermal infrared (TIR) imagery was acquired along coastal Levy County, Florida, in March 2009 with the goal of identifying groundwater-discharge locations in Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park (WBPSP). Groundwater discharge is thermally distinct in winter when Floridan aquifer temperature, 71-72 °F, contrasts with the surrounding cold surface waters. Calibrated imagery was analyzed to assess temperature anomalies and related thermal traces. The influence of warm Gulf water and image artifacts on small features was successfully constrained by image evaluation in three separate zones: Creeks, Bay, and Gulf. Four levels of significant water-temperature anomalies were identified, and 488 sites of interest were mapped. Among the sites identified, at least 80 were determined to be associated with image artifacts and human activity, such as excavation pits and the Florida Barge Canal. Sites of interest were evaluated for geographic concentration and isolation. High site densities, indicating interconnectivity and prevailing flow, were located at Corrigan Reef, No. 4 Channel, Winzy Creek, Cow Creek, Withlacoochee River, and at excavation sites. In other areas, low to moderate site density indicates the presence of independent vents and unique flow paths. A directional distribution assessment of natural seep features produced a northwest trend closely matching the strike direction of regional faults. Naturally occurring seeps were located in karst ponds and tidal creeks, and several submerged sites were detected in Waccasassa River and Bay, representing the first documentation of submarine vents in the Waccasassa region. Drought conditions throughout the region placed constraints on positive feature identification. Low discharge or displacement by landward movement of saltwater may have reduced or reversed flow during this season. Approximately two-thirds of seep locations in the overlap between 2009 and 2005 TIR night imagery were positively re-identified in 2009. These results indicate a 33 percent chance of feature omission in the 2009 imagery. This assessment of seep location and distribution contributes to an understanding of the underlying geology, the role of fault and fracture patterns, and the presence of both interconnected and constrained flow paths in the region. The maps and evaluations will enhance Park management efforts, interpretation of Park resources, and increase understanding of the combined effects of land and water use on the coastal lowlands, estuarine habitats, and natural resources of WBPSP.

For additional information contact:
Ellen Raabe
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
600 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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Suggested citation:

Raabe, E.A., and Bialkowska-Jelinska, Elzbieta, 2010, Thermal imaging of the Waccasassa Bay Preserve—Image acquisition and processing: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1120, 61 p.





Study Area

Geology and Hydrologic Framework

Application of Thermal Infrared Imagery in Landscape Analysis

Diurnal Energy Fluctuation

Data Acquisition

Weather and Climatic Conditions during Data Acquisition


Data Processing

Method Testing


Levels 1-4

Temperature-Anomaly Locations and Trend

Site Density and Dispersal

Comparison of 2009 and 2005 TIR Imagery


Zones and Feature Levels

Temperature-Anomaly Location and Directional Trend

Site Density and Dispersal

Comparison with March 2005 Imagery

Field Reconnaissance


Feature Omission

Diurnal Cycle Revisited

Thermal Infrared Versus Field Reconnaissance

Influence of Underlying Geology




References Cited

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