BP / Gulf Oil Spill – ASAR Image June 21, 2010 – The Power of Radar

Here’s a great example of why radar is the go-to tool for mapping and monitoring oil pollution (and why I think the US needs to launch a civilian radar imaging satellite). The MODIS/Aqua satellite image taken early yesterday afternoon is mostly obscured by heavy clouds over the area of the ongoing BP spill. But an Envisat/ASAR radar image taken late on the previous day clearly shows oil slicks and sheen spread across an area of 26,053 square miles.

Now you don’t see it:

MODIS/Aqua satellite image taken around 1:00pm on June 22, 2010

And now you do:

Envisat/ASAR radar satellite image (black-and-white inset) taken at 10:48pm the previous day (June 21). Color backdrop is June 22 MODIS/Aqua image. ASAR data courtesy of CSTARS.

Bad news todayan ROV bumped into the LMRP containment cap that had recently been diverting about 700,000 gallons of oil a day from the leaking well to vessels at the surface. The LMRP has been removed for repair and, as of right now, oil is gushing unchecked from the Macondo well, possibly at a rate as high as 2.5 million gallons (60,000 barrels) per day. See the spill cam video here.

1 reply
  1. EnvironScott says:

    A few topical references from ASTM F2534 Standard Guide for Visually Estimating Oil Spill Thickness on Water

    MacDonald, I. R., Guinasso, Jr., N. L., Ackleson, S. G., Amos, J. F.,
    Duckworth, R., Sassen, R., and Brooks, J. M., “Natural Oil Slicks in
    the Gulf of Mexico Visible from Space,” Journal of Geophysical
    Research, Vol 98, No. C9, 1993, pp. 16,351-16,364.

    Hollinger, J. P., and Mennella, R. A., “Oil Spills: Measurements of
    Their Distributions and Volumes by Multifrequency Microwave
    Radiometry,” Science, Vol 181, 1973, pp. 54-56.

    Parker, H. D., and Cormack, D., Evaluation of Infrared Line Scan
    (IRLS) and Side-looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) over Controlled Oil
    Spills in the North Sea, Warren Spring Laboratory Report, 1979.

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