Detecting submarine springs in Florida's coastal zone using thermal remote sensing data

Abduwasit Ghulam, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Center for Environmental Sciences, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO 63103


This lab is the continuation of the lab manual - calculating temperature, helps students to locate groundwater discharges by interpreting thermal anomalies and identifying their geologic controls on land. There are known locations of submarine springs in the study area (


Type and level of course
GIS 4XX, Geospatial Methods, is an upper level course designed for college level geoscience students, and introduces integrated remote sensing, GIS, GPS techniques in coastal zone management and/or environmental studies.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Introductory level geology knowledge is preferred, but not required.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
An introductory course in remote sensing, GIS is preferred, but not required.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ENVI, ArcGIS(ArcView/ArcINFO with Spatial Analyst Extension)

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
1 hour


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment

  1. Symbolize raster images
  2. Interpret thermal satellite images
  3. Identify thermal anomalies

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
Familiarize students with the basics of groundwater hydrology, and structural controls of submarine springs in coastal areas, and raster visualization in ENVI and ArcGIS.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Groundwater discharge in coastal zones may be detected using thermal remote sensing data based on the temperature anomalies between sea water and ground water discharge - the so-called submarine springs. Sustainable harness of submarine groundwater discharge, exploiting them before flow into the sea is of paramount importance for arid regions located in sea shorelines.
-Thermal differences between seawater and groundwater discharge.
-Groundwater temperature may be constant year round.

Description of the activity/assignment

This lab outlines general steps to detect submarine springs in coastal areas using freely available thermal remote sensing imagery. Students are walked through an example of symbolizing, visualizing raster data in both ArcGIS and ENVI. Students are required to apply what they have learned in the lecture on thermal remote sensing to a practical example. Students are expected to discuss identified thermal anomalies in Florida's coastal zone, and its possible association with submarine springs by consulting geologic maps.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The thermal anomaly maps and an extended abstract that illustrates the connection between submarine springs and thermal anomalies can be used for assessment. Evidences referenced from the other sources, e.g., geologic maps, to confirm the association of thermal anomalies with groundwater aquifers to prove/disprove their interpretation is a plus.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

URLs and References

Akawwi, E., et al. Using Thermal Infrared Imagery (TIR) for Illustrating the Submarine Groundwater Discharge into the Eastern Shoreline of the Dead Sea-Jordan. American Journal of Environmental Sciences, 2008, 4(6): 693-700, 2008
Shaban, A., et al. Geologic controls of submarine groundwater discharge: application of remote sensing to north Lebanon. Environmental Geology, 2005, 47:512-522.

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