This paper deals with the application of satellite images to characterize some aspects of the circulation dynamics of the Tinto-Odiel estuary using turbidity patterns as ‘natural tracers’. 15 images (Landsat TM and Spot HRV) were processed to provide synoptic, instantaneous views of the circulation patterns under different environmental conditions. In addition, a comparison was made between results of oceanographic field work, using biplanes and fluorescent tracers, and satellite image turbidity patterns used as ‘ground truth’ data for specific hydroclimatic situations. This approach allowed (1) the identification and mapping of dynamic processes of interest during a theoretical tidal cycle, (2) the elaboration of additional information on the ‘flow schemes’ at the mouth of the estuary with improved spatial and temporal resolution, and (3) the supply of basic data to improve the knowledge of exchange processes between estuarine and coastal waters. The results of this study are considered to be useful for the management of the estuarine system.