With the backing of NASA, researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin have begun using satellite data to measure lake water quality and clarity of the lakes in the Upper Midwest. This false color IKONOS image displays the water clarity of the lakes in Eagan, Minnesota. Scientists measure the lake quality in satellite data by observing the ratio of blue to red light in the satellite data. When the amount of blue light reflecting off of the lake is high and the red light is low, a lake generally had high water quality. Lakes loaded with algae and sediments, on the other hand, reflect less blue light and more red light.
In this image, scientists used false coloring to depict the level of clarity of the water. Clear lakes are blue, moderately clear lakes are green and yellow, and murky lakes are orange and red. Using images such as these along with data from the Landsat satellites and NASA’s Terra satellite, the scientists plan to create a comprehensive water quality map for the entire Great Lakes region in the next few years.