Water Quality Drivers in 11 Gulf of Mexico Estuaries
Matthew J. McCarthy
Daniel B. Otis
Frank E. Muller-Karger
- Publisher: MDPI AG
MODIS | turbidity | wind speed | discharge | Science | Q
Coastal water-quality is both a primary driver and also a consequence of coastal ecosystem health. Turbidity, a measure of dissolved and particulate water-quality matter, is a proxy for water quality, and varies on daily to interannual periods. Turbidity is influenced by a variety of factors, including algal particles, colored dissolved organic matter, and suspended sediments. Identifying which factors drive trends and extreme events in turbidity in an estuary helps environmental managers and decision makers plan for and mitigate against water-quality issues. Efforts to do so on large spatial scales have been hampered due to limitations of turbidity data, including coarse and irregular temporal resolution and poor spatial coverage. We addressed these issues by deriving a proxy for turbidity using ocean color satellite products for 11 Gulf of Mexico estuaries from 2000 to 2014 on weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual time-steps. Drivers were identified using Akaike’s Information Criterion and multiple regressions to model turbidity against precipitation, wind speed, U and V wind vectors, river discharge, water level, and El Nino Southern Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation climate indices. Turbidity variability was best explained by wind speed across estuaries for both time-series and extreme turbidity events, although more dynamic patterns were found between estuaries over various time steps.