NASA Sensor Completes Initial Gulf Oil Spill Flights

May 28, 2010
AVIRIS airborne measurement acquired May 17, 2010, over the site of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil rig disaster. The oil appears orange to brown. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dryden/USGS/UC Santa Barbara

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) instrument collected an image over the site of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil rig disaster on May 17, 2010. Crude oil on the surface appears orange to brown. Scientists are using spectroscopic methods to analyze measurements for each point in images like this one to detail the characteristics of the oil on the surface.

AVIRIS extensively mapped the region affected by the spill during 11 flights conducted between May 6 and May 25, 2010, at the request of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In total, AVIRIS measured more than 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles) in support of the national oil spill response. The instrument flew at altitudes of up to 19,800 meters (65,000 feet) aboard a NASA ER-2 aircraft from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.

AVIRIS is using imaging spectroscopy to map the occurrence and condition of oil on the surface of the Gulf, and to estimate the amount of oil on the surface to help scientists and responding agencies better understand the spill and how to address its effects. In addition, coastline maps created from the AVIRIS overflights will be used to provide a baseline of ecosystems and habitats that can be compared with data from future AVIRIS flights to assess the oil spill's impacts.

Figure 1 depicts AVIRIS imaging spectrometer measurements along the Gulf coast to measure the characteristics and condition of the ecosystem and habitat prior to possible oil contamination and impact. The location is near Johnson's Bayou and along the Gulf Beach Highway, between Port Arthur, La., to the west and Cameron, La., to the east. The west corner of the image includes part of the Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge. The 224 wavelengths of light measured by AVIRIS from visible to infrared are depicted in the top and left panels. The spectrum measured for each point in the image will be used to help assess the characteristics and conditions of the coastal ecosystems and habitats.

AVIRIS data provide scientists with many different types of information about the spill. Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey's Spectroscopy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., are working to determine the characteristics of the oil based upon the AVIRIS measured spectral signature. As shown in Figure 2, acquired May 17, 2010, the signature of the oil measured in the infrared portion of the spectrum allows scientists to measure the occurrence and condition of oil and estimate the thickness of oil on the water's surface, Figure 3 depicts AVIRIS spill flight line measurements acquired on May 17, 2010, superimposed on a background regional image.

Explore further: Conservation scientists asking wrong questions on climate change impacts on wildlife

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Captures Night Infrared View of Gulf Oil Spill

May 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A May 7 nighttime infrared image of the Gulf oil spill from an instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft provides a different perspective on the oil slick nearing the Gulf coast.

Aqua satellite sees sunglint on Gulf oil slick

May 19, 2010

At 3 p.m. EDT on May 18, NASA's Aqua satellite swept over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from its vantage point in space and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument captured sunglints in ...

NASA's MISR Provides Unique Views of Gulf Oil Slick

May 21, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New Gulf oil spill images from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft paint dramatic portraits of different aspects of the growing spill.

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.

Recommended for you

Big data confirms climate extremes are here to stay

16 hours ago

In a paper published online today in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, Northeastern researchers Evan Kodra and Auroop Ganguly found that while global temperature is indeed increasing, so too is the variab ...

Peru's carbon quantified: Economic and conservation boon

16 hours ago

Today scientists unveiled the first high-resolution map of the carbon stocks stored on land throughout the entire country of PerĂº. The new and improved methodology used to make the map marks a sea change ...

How might climate change affect our food supply?

17 hours ago

It's no easy question to answer, but prudence demands that we try. Thus, Microsoft and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have teamed up to tackle "food resilience," one of several themes ...

Groundwater is safe in potential N.Y. fracking area

17 hours ago

Two Cornell hydrologists have completed a thorough groundwater examination of drinking water in a potential hydraulic fracturing area in New York's Southern Tier. They determined that drinking water in potable ...

User comments : 0