Estimating concentrations of fine-grained and total suspended sediment from close-range remote sensing imagery

Federal Interagency Sediment Program
By: , and 


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Fluvial sediment, a vital surface water resource, is hazardous in excess. Suspended sediment, the most prevalent source of impairment of river systems, can adversely affect flood control, navigation, fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, recreation, and water supply (e.g., Rasmussen et al., 2009; Qu, 2014). Monitoring programs typically focus on suspended-sediment concentration (SSC) and discharge (SSQ). These time-series data are used to study changes to basin hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology caused by disturbances. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has traditionally used physical sediment sample-based methods (Edwards and Glysson, 1999; Nolan et al., 2005; Gray et al., 2008) to compute SSC and SSQ from continuous streamflow data using a sediment transport-curve (e.g., Walling, 1977) or hydrologic interpretation (Porterfield, 1972). Accuracy of these data is typically constrained by the resources required to collect and analyze intermittent physical samples. Quantifying SSC using continuous instream turbidity is rapidly becoming common practice among sediment monitoring programs. Estimations of SSC and SSQ are modeled from linear regression analysis of concurrent turbidity and physical samples. Sediment-surrogate technologies such as turbidity promise near real-time information, increased accuracy, and reduced cost compared to traditional physical sample-based methods (Walling, 1977; Uhrich and Bragg, 2003; Gray and Gartner, 2009; Rasmussen et al., 2009; Landers et al., 2012; Landers and Sturm, 2013; Uhrich et al., 2014). Statistical comparisons among SSQ computation methods show that turbidity-SSC regression models can have much less uncertainty than streamflow-based sediment transport-curves or hydrologic interpretation (Walling, 1977; Lewis, 1996; Glysson et al., 2001; Lee et al., 2008). However, computation of SSC and SSQ records from continuous instream turbidity data is not without challenges; some of these include environmental fouling, calibration, and data range among sensors. Of greatest interest to many programs is a hysteresis in the relationship between turbidity and SSC, attributed to temporal variation of particle size distribution (Landers and Sturm, 2013; Uhrich et al., 2014). This phenomenon causes increased uncertainty in regression-estimated values of SSC, due to changes in nephelometric reflectance off the varying grain sizes in suspension (Uhrich et al., 2014). Here, we assess the feasibility and application of close-range remote sensing to quantify SSC and particle size distribution of a disturbed, and highly-turbid, river system. We use a consumer-grade digital camera to acquire imagery of the river surface and a depth-integrating sampler to collect concurrent suspended-sediment samples. We then develop two empirical linear regression models to relate image spectral information to concentrations of fine sediment (clay to silt) and total suspended sediment. Before presenting our regression model development, we briefly summarize each data-acquisition method.

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Estimating concentrations of fine-grained and total suspended sediment from close-range remote sensing imagery
Year Published 2015
Language English
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 12 p.
Conference Title SEDHYD 2015
Conference Location Reno, Nevada
Conference Date 19-23 April, 2015
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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