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NESDIS’s Marine Pollution Surveillance Program


Monitoring the Oceans for Oil Spills

The Satellite Analysis Branch of NOAA/NESDIS has been working since December 2008 to develop the capability of detecting oil slicks in high-resolution satellite imagery in order to meet NOAA’s Emergency Response Division (ERD) request for analysis support for oil spills. Since then, other customers have been added to the oil mapping distribution list that include the US Coast Guard, the Bureaus of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

The Marine Pollution Surveillance Program consists of manual detection and mapping of oil slicks primarily through the use of available moderate to high resolution multispectral imagery such as MODIS (NASA) and FORMOSAT-2 (NSPO) , but occasionally even space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), such as RADARSAT-2 (Canadian). SAR imagery has proven to be a useful tool in capturing oil slicks because it depicts the wave-suppression that oil creates on the sea surface, provides wide spatial coverage, and works day or night.

 

MODIS Aqua satellite image of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 25th, 2010 in the north-central Gulf of Mexico Mission Objectives

 

To the right is an image was taken from NASA’s MODIS Aqua satellite of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 25th, 2010 in the north-central Gulf of Mexico.

 

What is the Marine Pollution Surveillance Report?

The Marine Pollution Surveillance Report is issued by SAB satellite analysts when “anomalies” or man-made oil slicks are suspected to be observed in satellite imagery.  These reports are distributed to NOAA’s Emergency Response Division, U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureaus of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).  The reports include the following information for each oil spill incident:

Example of a Marine Pollution Surveillance Report

 

 

To the right is an example of a Marine Pollution Surveillance Report that was issued on 04/20/2012 for an anomaly near Louisiana’s Bird’s Foot Delta.

 

DISCLAIMER

Full extent of the oil might not be shown since oil can be too thin for the analyst to see in imagery, and any oil beneath the water surface will also not be seen by the analyst. Also, the analyst has no way to determine whether there is oil outside the boundary of the passes. Further information about uncertainty is found in the comments section (white box text) on the product.

 

Contact Address: Satellite_Oil@noaa.gov
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