Satellite images: Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico nears the coast

Apr 30, 2010
In this image acquired by ESA’s Envisat on 29 April 2010 at 16:23 UTC, oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen as a dark blue swirl advancing toward the Louisiana coast. Envisat acquired this image with its Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). Credits: ESA

(PhysOrg.com) -- In this latest image acquired by ESA's Envisat on Thursday at 16:23 UTC, oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be seen as a dark blue swirl advancing toward the Louisiana coast.

On Thursday night, the oil spill - five times larger than first estimated - had spread to just under 5 km from the coast, threatening environmental disaster.

As efforts are being made by all available resources to help avert the feared environmental catastrophe, Envisat images are being provided to U.S. authorities immediately after they are acquired through the International Charter Space and Major Disasters.

On 22 April the U.S. Geological Survey, on behalf of the U.S. Coast Guard, requested the Charter to provide rapid access to radar and optical satellite imagery of the oil slick. In response, a series of space sensors, including Envisat’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) and Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR), have been tasked to monitor the situation.

Since this date, Envisat MERIS and ASAR data were provided in near real time and have been used by the U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In this image, acquired by Envisat's Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument on 28 April 2010 at 03:45 UTC, the oil spill is visible as a lighter grey whirl on the left side of the large black pattern stretching across the Gulf. Credits: ESA

The Charter is an international collaboration between worldwide space agencies to put satellite remote sensing at the service of civil protection agencies and others in response to natural and man-made disasters.

In the black-and-white radar image, acquired by ASAR on Wednesday at 03:45 UTC, the oil spill is visible as a lighter grey whirl on the left side of the large black pattern stretching across the Gulf. The colour image was acquired by MERIS.

Radar is especially suited for detecting as it works day and night, is able to see through clouds, unlike optical sensors, and is especially sensitive to the smoother water surface caused by the presence of oil. Depending on the situation, oil is harder to detect in optical satellite observations as the changes on the water surface are not as pronounced.

To see the latest MERIS images of the oil spill, visit our MIRAVI website. MIRAVI, which is free and requires no registration, generates images from the raw data collected by MERIS and provides them online quickly after acquisition.

The next MERIS acquisitions of the oil spill are scheduled for late Saturday and Sunday morning (U.S. Louisiana time), if clouds are not blocking the satellite’s view.

Explore further: Fighting the global water scarcity issue

More information: miravi.eo.esa.int/en/

Related Stories

ESA's Envisat monitors oil spill

Apr 27, 2010

These ESA Envisat images capture the oil that is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico after a drilling rig exploded and sank off the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, USA, on 22 April.

Explore planet Earth in near-real time

Dec 05, 2006

Have you ever wanted to track natural events in progress, such as fires, floods and volcanic eruptions, or simply explore the planet through the eyes of a satellite? ESA has created a website, MIRAVI, which ...

Image: Oil Slick Spreads off Gulf Coast

Apr 27, 2010

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument.

European hot spots and fires identified from space

Aug 27, 2007

Hot spots across Southeastern Europe from 21 to 26 August have been detected with instruments aboard ESA satellites, which have been continuously surveying fires burning across the Earth’s surface for a ...

Cyclone Nargis and Myanmar floods seen from space

May 07, 2008

Envisat captured Cyclone Nargis making its way across the Bay of Bengal just south of Myanmar on 1 May 2008. The cyclone hit the coastal region and ripped through the heart of Myanmar on Saturday, devastating ...

Recommended for you

2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

7 hours ago

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year's hole was 24.1 million ...

New study finds oceans arrived early to Earth

10 hours ago

Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet's surface and are home to the world's greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life ...

Magma pancakes beneath Lake Toba

10 hours ago

Where do the tremendous amounts of material that are ejected to from huge volcanic calderas during super-eruptions actually originate?

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bitflux
3 / 5 (2) May 01, 2010
Man's lust for more money prevails yet again - it is so sad.
How can the people in the oil companies not care about what world they leave behind for their kids?!.
lewando
1.8 / 5 (5) May 01, 2010
Like it or not we live (and will continue to live) in a world of managed risk. "Escapes" like this happen by design and will happen again--certainly on our children's watch. Our kids will be just fine if they simply learn to acknowledge reality.

Tan0r5
not rated yet May 02, 2010
Ain't that the truth our children inherit the earth anyway. Do you think the children know that their reality may not be another's reality? They are the lucky ones who do. Survival is to the luckiest, not the smartest, nor fittest. If it was the smartest why are we still killing each other? If it was to the fittest why are we dying of cancer. Maybe the designer will say "That's enough!" and start all over again with a world without humans.
computerbrainz
not rated yet May 03, 2010
There was a man on youtube who was abducted in the mid 90's and he was told this would happen...when the water turned black.

It's funny that even we can't stop to think about the dangers of projects we create. As long as we get paid to do it, we will do anything.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.