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Copernicus EMS Monitors Algal Bloom in Antilles Islands, France

EMS Information Bulletin
09/05/2018

In the summer of 2015, large quantities of different species of Sargassum seaweed accumulated along the shores of islands and countries in and around the Caribbean Sea.

 

The event was named “Sargassum crisis”. The outbreak repeated the following years, causing environmental problems and affecting local populations.

 

During such “crises” the Sargassum algae are washed ashore, pile up on beaches, and, when decaying, release foul odour and fumes of sulphur compounds that rust metals. Moreover, it causes respiratory problems, particularly for people with asthma.

 

This type of algae bloom, according to a statement of the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies in 2015, is “the greatest single threat” to the Caribbean economy which mostly relies on tourism. The cause of these outbreaks is still unknown, with global warming and pollution being the top guesses. Physically removing the seaweed is necessary, therefore tracking them and predicting their path is essential for informed decisions, and satellites are a very handy tool in this case.

 

Since April of this year a new “Sargassum crisis” is under way in the West Indies. In this context, the Copernicus EMS has been activated by the French Interdepartmental Crisis Management Operational Centre (COGIC) to produce delineation maps over 4 Areas of Interest (AoIs) in the French Antilles islands to determine the extent of the algae bloom.

 

The algae have been highlighted in the satellite imagery using the False Colour Composite technique, which uses NIR (Near-infrared), green and blue spectral bands mapped to common channels RGB. Processed in this manner, the images show vegetation and algae in red, as vegetation reflects most light in the NIR spectrum. You can see an example in the map of the coast in Cul-de-Sac on the St. Martin island.

 

All maps and vector data are available on the EMS website: Activation EMSR282.

 

For updates on this and other activations, follow the Copernicus EMS on Twitter.

 

 

 

The 4 AoIs identified for delineation map production
(Copernicus EMS © 2018 EU, [EMSR282] Activation Extent Map)

 

The map shows that 9 ha of the Cul-de-Sac coast in St. Martin island was affected by the algae bloom
(Copernicus EMS © 2018 EU, [EMSR282] Cul-de-Sac: Delineation Map)

 

 

 

For more information contact

 

support@copernicus.eu
+32 495 544 844 (European CET time)
Follow our Twitter feed @CopernicusEMS where maps and vector data are posted automatically in near real time.

 


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