The Colour of Water is determined by substances in the water, and measuring the water colour allows a retrieval of the water quality. Eutrophic waters appear green, while sediment loaded waters get a brown colour. Highly sensitive multispectral cameras, deployed on satellites, allow a quantification of such water constituents from space, at global scale and with a spatial resolution of down to 10s of meters.

The retrieval of water constituents, or its optical properties, is achieved by inversion of the water leaving reflectance spectrum, measured at top of atmosphere and thus requiring a correction for atmospheric effects. This multi-variate problem is extremely challenging in so-called optically complex, or Case-2, waters. The Case2 Regional processor, originally developed by DOERFFER and SCHILLER, uses a large database of radiative transfer simulations inverted by neural networks as basic technology.

Through the ESA CoastColour project major improvements were introduced and subsequently further improved. The actual version of the processor is called C2RCC (Case-2 Regional CoastColour) and is capable of processing data from Sentinels3 and 2, MERIS, VIIRS, MODIS, and Landsat-8.

The C2RCC processor is composed of a set of additional neural networks performing specific tasks and special neural networks have been trained to cover extreme ranges of scattering and absorption. C2RCC has been validated in various studies and is available through ESA’s Sentinel toolbox SNAP. It is also used in the Sentinel3 OLCI ground segment processor of ESA for the generation of the Case2 water products, as well as in the processor for the MERIS 4th reprocessing. More information can be found here.

  • In-house development, with original development by HZG Research Centre Geesthacht (until 2014)

  •  Radiative transfer simulations, bio-optical model development, neural network training, validation

  • Contribution to various R&D projects

  • Application in operational services

  • Software development


WAQSS-BSH, WasMon-CT, HIGHROC, GlobWetland Africa, S3MPC, WAQSS-NIVA, Case2Extreme, CoastColour, OC-CCI, MERIS QWG, CGLOPS Lake Water Service, SPONGE, CyanoAlert


ESA, EUMETSAT, BSH, NIVA, EU, BfG, scientific community