Mapping oil for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
The Experimental Marine Pollution Program of NESDIS/SAB consists of manual detection and mapping of oil slicks through the use of available moderate to high resolution visible imagery such as MODIS (NASA) and MERIS (ESA), and more primarily using space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, which during this disaster included RADARSAT (Canadian), Cosmo SkyMed (Italian), Envisat (ESA), Advanced Land Observation Satellite (Japanese), and TerraSAR-X (German). SAR imagery has proven to be a useful tool in capturing oil slicks because it depicts the wave-suppression that oil causes on the sea surface, provides wide spatial coverage, and works day or night. As the disaster continued through the summer, it became apparent that very high resolution visible imagery, such as ASTER (NASA/JPL) and SPOT (French) imagery would be more important given the smaller size of the oil slicks and their closer proximity to the shorelines of the Gulf states.
In addition to the EMPSR's issued for each satellite image that was analyzed for the oil spill, NOAA's NESDIS/SAB also created a Daily Composite product, starting on May 17th, for each day that suitable satellite coverage was available. This product gave an overall view of all of the surface oil present in the waters off the Gulf coast on any one specific day. Over the entire length of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, over 300 EMPSR's were issued along with more than 75 Daily Composite products, which greatly assisted the many organizations and first responders working to locate and clean up areas contaminated by the oil from the Deepwater Horizon.
Supplementary URL: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/MPS/deepwater.html