Intensive Course on Remote Sensing of the Ocean: Applications for Ocean Colour, Temperature, Wind Stress and Altimetry

November 10 - 22, 1997
Olmué, Chile.

The following report has been written by Dr. Trevor Platt, who was one of the invited lecturers, and Dr. Osvaldo Ulloa, one of the course coordinators.

IOCCG in Latin America

by Dr. Trevor Platt

One of the important Terms of Reference for the IOCCG is training or capacity building: the commitment to broaden the base of users of ocean- colour data throughout the world and raise the general level of ability to apply these data. Recently, the IOCCG was able to make good on this commitment through its support of an advanced training course on marine applications of remotely-sensed data held in Chile. About one half of the course dealt with ocean-colour issues.


As detailed in a companion article, this two-week course was ably organised by three Chilean scientists, Prof. V. Montecino, Prof. J. Rutllant, and Dr. O. Ulloa. The course was intended primarily (but not exclusively) for participants from Latin America. Their participation, and the general infrastructure costs for the course, were funded by the Inter- American Institute for Global Change Research.

The IOCCG was able to support the course in two ways. First, by funding the participation of scientists from outside Latin America (some 6 participants), and second, by providing instructors for the course (Drs. Kawamura and Platt). The IOCCG funded the participation of Dr. Kawamura and also that of L. Payzant (Canada), who gave excellent instruction on image analysis. In all, the IOCCG invested about $20,000 in this initiative.

Thanks to the excellent organisation and logistics, this course was a pleasure to attend. Further, thanks to the care with which the participants had been selected, the course was an outstanding success. The Chilean organisers can be proud of a job well done. The course has done a great deal to mobilise, stimulate and coordinate marine remote sensing capability within Latin America. Several research proposals were developed by participants during the course for multilateral collaboration on remote-sensing research within the region. These will provide the framework for future growth in this area.

Further, including participants from outside Latin America was important in broadening the perspectives of those from within and outside the region, and laid the basis for future cooperation.


Lastly, as can easily be imagined, the convivial and collegial atmosphere during this course was a sheer delight. Participants frequently worked on their assignments until the small hours of the morning, but never failed to reappear next day in time for the lectures at 0830h. The momentum developed transcended the quality of the individual course elements, and it became obvious to the organisers, the instructors and the rest of the participants that they were involved, together, in a special experience. The closing ceremonies were very moving. The farewell dinner was a riot.

It is clear that in the area of capacity building and training, as in other aspects of its Terms of Reference, the IOCCG is playing a useful role and responding to real needs in the marine remote-sensing community.

International Remote Sensing Course

by Dr. Osvaldo Ullo

The "Intensive Course on Remote Sensing of the Ocean: Applications for Ocean Colour, Temperature, Wind Stress and Altimetry" took place on 10 - 22 November 1997, in Olmué, a small town northwest of Santiago, Chile. Thirty six participants from fifteen nations (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Peru, Puerto Rico, South Africa and South Korea) attended the course which was organised by the Programa en Dinámica de la Atmósfera y Clima (PRODAC), Universidad de Chile and the Programa de Oceanografía Física y Clima (PROFC) , Universidad de Concepción.

The format of the course consisted of lectures, hands-on exercises, demonstrations and student projects. In the lecture sessions, a review of the theory of radiative transfer (through the atmosphere and upper ocean) and of the different remote-sensing platforms available for studying the ocean was presented. Basic ocean dynamics and bio-optical properties in the sea were also reviewed, and formed the basis for discussing the applications of altimetry, scatterometry and sea-surface temperature to the study of ocean circulation and air-sea interactions, and of ocean colour to the estimation of primary production. The invited instructors were:

  • David Halpern (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA)
  • Hiroshi Kawamura (Tohoku University, Japan)
  • Vivian Lutz (Dalhousie University, Canada)
  • Trevor Platt (Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada)
  • Shubha Sathyendranath (Dalhousie University, Canada)
  • Ted Strub (Oregon State University, USA)


The hosts were:

The course also benefited from the visit and talks by Mary-Elena Carr (JPL, USA) and Andrew Thomas (U. of Maine, USA).

The practical sessions were based on demonstrations and hands-on exercises using different programs and software for displaying and processing satellite data, including: AVHRR, SeaWIFS ocean colour, altimetry and scatterometry data. For this part of the course, the students counted with the experienced guidance of Linda Payzant from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada, and of Raul Aguilera from the Center for Space Studies of the Universidad de Chile. During the two- week course, the students also worked in groups preparing a research proposal to study a particular oceanographic problem of their choice using remotely sensed data.

This course was sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), the International Ocean-Colour Coordinating Group (IOCCG), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), the Humboldt Programme (FONDAP-Chile) and Silicon-Chile (Silicon Graphics).

Eddy Rojas, one of the participants has put online some photos which demonstrate the intensive nature of the course. They can be found at

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