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Photonics applications in Deepwater Horizon spill response are on program for SPIE DSS, in SPIE Newsroom

20 April 2011

Tracking the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with photonics

Satellite imagery was used to track and assess the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began 20 April 2010.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- One year ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began in the Gulf of Mexico. Two articles published 19 April in the SPIE Newsroom and special sessions next week at SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing (DSS) in Orlando, Florida, explore how photonics has helped track the oil and enable responders to adapt quickly to new developments.

In the Newsroom article "Satellites, models combine to track Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Yonggang Liu, Robert Weisberg, Chuanmin Hu, and Lianyuan Zheng (Univ. of South Florida) describe the tracking system that was immediately implemented for the Deepwater Horizon spill by marshaling an ensemble of circulation models and satellite observations. The forecasts were disseminated and used by federal and state agencies responsible for mitigation and public advisories.

The Newsroom article "Measurements in support of the Deepwater Horizon incident's response effort" by Richard Crout (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] Stennis Space Center) details the wide variety of measurement techniques needed to find and track oil because of the spill's deep source and the complicated ocean environment, to help guide response efforts.

As the Deepwater Horizon response evolved, so did the use of various sensors and platforms. Because of the nature of the spill and the variability of the environment, the response had to be adaptive. It was important to measure the oil in the vicinity of the wellhead, but it was also necessary to trace the oil's transport and determine its fate.

Orlando sessions

Joint sessions on Oil Spill and Ocean Monitoring are organized for two conferences during the SPIE Defense, Security + Sensing symposium next week. Talks begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday 27 April, for the conferences Sensing Technologies for Global Health, Military Medicine, Disaster Response, and Environmental Monitoring (Conf. 8029A) and Ocean Sensing and Monitoring (Conf. 8030). Session chairs are Sárka Southern (Gaia Medical Institute) and Weilin Hou and Robert Arnone (U.S. Naval Research Lab).

"The session will highlight the coordinated efforts and responses of the meteorological and oceanographic community to describe the oceanographic impact of oil in the Gulf," said Hou. Paper will examine assets used for monitoring which include remote sensing, in situ observations and models, and describe capabilities for monitoring the ocean processes in the gulf and their utilities for examining the oil spill impacts.

A conference plenary presentation by Paul Lewis (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) will report on the Environmental Protection Agency's Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT), the United States' only 24/7 operational airborne chemical, radiological, and situational awareness reporting capability. It was used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and numerous other disasters. Lewis' talk is at 5 p.m. Wednesday 27 April, in Algorithms and Technologies for Multispectral, Hyperspectral, and Ultraspectral Imagery (Conf. 8048).

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants and other education programs around the world.


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