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Breakthrough method in oil-spill sensing reported in SPIE Journal of Applied Remote Sensing

A measurement of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil slick thickness/volume with critical socio-economic implications has been reported by researchers from a range of academic, government and industry bodies including the University of South Florida, the U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Managements, and Abt Associates. Their work is supported by the U.S. NASA, NOAA, USGS, BOEM, and Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative C-IMAGE consortium, and outlined in an open-access article in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing published by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

30 April 2018

JARS-170960 oil slick figure

MODIS satellite image from May 17, 2010, shows oil slicks (outlined in red) from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Part (a) shows the oil slicks outlined in the red circle and have enhanced contrast due to both sun glint and water circulations. Part (b) is a surface oil volume map derived from the MODIS data.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA and CARDIFF, UK - In an article published in SPIE's Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, researchers announce that optical remote sensing observations may provide close estimates of relative oil thickness/volume for large oil slicks in the ocean captured by satellites. This is a critical scientific advancement for monitoring large-scale oil spills using operational civilian satellites, according to Journal of Applied Remote Sensing associate editor, Weilin "Will" Hou, that will ultimately increase our ability to assess and understand the impact of oil spills on marine and coastal resources, as well as our ability to prepare appropriate responses for future spills.

The open-access article, "Remote Sensing Estimation of Surface Oil Volume During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout in the Gulf of Mexico: Scaling up AVIRIS Observation with MODIS Measurements," suggests that optical remote sensing observations from coarse-resolution satellite instruments can estimate the thickness and volume of large oil slicks in the vast ocean when some fine-resolution aircraft measurements are available: the combined measurements of two NASA satellite instruments (MODIS on Terra and Aqua) and one NASA airborne instrument (AVIRIS) resulted in maps that revealed surface oil volume, relative oil thickness, and probable distributions of the various thicknesses for the northern Gulf of Mexico.

"This research comes from a stellar team of scientists. It is the result of great collaborations amongst universities, government agencies and industry," says Hou. "The lead article author, Chuanmin Hu, is a top researcher on ocean monitoring and remote sensing; another author, Rebecca Green, is a well-known expert in the federal government when it comes to oil-spill monitoring and impact assessment. The work this team produced has the potential of very important environmental, economic, and social impact for us: the more accurately we can assess the volume of oil spills at synoptic scale, the better we can plan mitigation efforts for future spills, and the better we can assess how such spills affect our marine and coastal communities and environments, in order to best apply our resources."

The article authors are Chuanmin Hu, Lian Feng, and Frank Muller-Karger of the University of Florida's College of Marine Science; Jamie Holmes of Abt Associates; Gregg A Swayze of the U.S. Geological Survey, Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center; Ira Leifer and Christopher Melton of Bubbleology Research International; Oscar Garcia of Watermapping; Ian MacDonald of Florida State University's Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science Department; Mark Hess of Ocean Imaging; George Graettinger of NOAA Ocean Service; and Rebecca Green of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Managements.

Ni-Bin Chang, an SPIE Senior Fellow and professor in the Civil, Environmental, and Constructive Engineering department at University of Central Florida, is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing. The journal is published in print and digitally by SPIE in the SPIE Digital Library, which contains more than 460,000 articles from SPIE journals, proceedings, and books, with approximately 18,000 new research papers added each year.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2017, SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs. www.spie.org.

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