BP / Gulf Oil Spill – MODIS Images, June 18 and 19

MODIS Terra and Aqua images on June 18 and June 19 have some cloud-cover problems but still show oil slick and sheen spanning areas of 11,278 square miles and 18,473 square miles respectively, with oil apaprently coming ashore from Gulf Shores, Alabama to points as far east as Seacrest and Rosemary Beach, Florida. Oil is also apparent in Pensacola Bay on the 18th:

MODIS/Terra satellite image, June 18, 2010

Strong thunderstorms form large, dense masses of bright white cloud in this image — one area of cloud obscures the location of the leaking Macondo well, source of the ongoing BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Oil slicks and sheen viewed through breaks in the cloud cover at least 11,278 square miles (29,210 km2). Oil appears to be making landfall along the beaches of Perdido Key, Alabama, and east along the coast to Destin, Florida. Oil slicks also seem to occur within Pensacola Bay itself. Compare with the MODIS/Aqua image taken the next day, on June 19:

MODIS/Aqua satellite image, June 19, 2010

Not as many thunderstorms and cloudy patches on this image, revealing the continuing upwelling of fresh oil around the location of BP’s leaking well. Slicks and sheen span 18,473 square miles (47,847 km2) on this image. Thin patches appear to be making landfall from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Perdido Key in Florida, and from Grayton Beach State Park to the Seacrest / Rosemary Beach area along the Florida coast.

8 replies
  1. Chad says:


    There is no way the image dated June 19th is from June 19th.

    You're trying to tell me that the oil receded from the coastline in 24 hours.

    I don't buy it.

    I suspect NASA is playing part of the cover up now , or damage control.

    Something is way off between these two images.

    If anything the image dated June 19th looks more like it's from around the 15th or 14th,
    before oil made landfall in northwest florida.

  2. John says:

    Chad – the analysis on these images (the orange lines and other annotation) is all from SkyTruth, and not from NASA. I assure you we are doing the best we can with an inconsistent stream of less-than-perfect image data. It's likely, on any given day, that not all of the oil floating in the Gulf is visible on satellite images. The subsurface oil, which could be coming ashore on the tide in some areas, is even less detectable on satellite imagery.

    MODIS images are susceptible to clouds and haze, and our ability to visually detect oil slicks on the images is partly a function of the sunglint illuminatiom, which varies significantly from one image to the next.

    Also, these images show an instantaneous snaphot in time. If the wind was blowing offshore for a few hours before the satellite overpass, then oil slicks could temporarily withdraw from the coast.

    You can see all of the MODIS satellite images collected by NASA here, and examine this variability for yourself. NASA has no reason to "photoshop" their images.

    The MODIS images also correspond fairly well with radar satellite images coming from Canada, Italy, Germany, and the European Space Agency. Browse all of those images at the CSTARS website. Those countries certainly have no reason to fake it, either.

  3. Holly says:

    I drove across the Mobile Bay on Sunday, the 20th. The oil is in in Mobile Bay, the marshes are stained, and their are large red/brown deposits, including soiled marshes. I even saw a couple of use – to – be white egrits. Why does your "oil line" not extend to the same colored water there?

  4. DUDE says:

    "BP #oilspill: Skandi-2 ROV spillcam shows gusher of oil blasting from Macondo well – what's happening there? – "

    That feed went down right after you posted….

  5. John says:

    DUDE – those ROVs keep moving around so the feed changes unpredictably. There are a bunch of different ROV cameras to choose from so if one isn't showing anything of interest, try the others.

    Right now the Skandi 2 camera has all the action. Looks like the riser cap containment device has been repositioned over the leaking well, but oil is still billowing out.

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