Thematic mapper and ship data has been used to study small scale features in coastal waters of the North Sea. Three independent pieces of informations from all 7 TM channels were found with factor analysis: suspended matter concentration, atmospheric scattering and sea surface temperature. Near surface suspended matter concentrations may be detected within a factor of 2. For the required atmospheric correction the signal-to-noise ratio of the channels 5 and 7 has to be improved by averaging over 25 x 25 pixels. Thus TM allows to monitor aerosol optical depth and aerosol type over cloudfree water surfaces. Sea surface temperature is retrievable with an absolute accuracy of 1.0 K as long as radiosonde data are available for the correction of atmospheric effects, while relative temperature variations of 0.5 K are detectable. The patchiness of suspended matter and its relation to underwater topography was analysed with auto- and crosscorrelation: horizontal lengths, where the suspended matter concentration of single pixels are significantly correlated either with each another or with water depth, are < 800 m. (orig.).