MMRI Research Related to Macondo Oil Spill Presented at OCEANS 2010 MST/IEE

Comparison of chlorophyll concentration from May 12, 2010 to approximate oil area (outlined in black) from May 11, 2010.

OCEANS 2010 MTS/IEEE was held in Seattle, Washington, September 20-23, 2010. Allison Innman, a GIS research analyst at MMRI, presented a paper related to the Deepwater Horizon oil well rupture entitled "The Effectiveness of Using MODIS Products to Map Sea Surface Oil," to a group of about 60 people. This paper examined the use of publically available Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery, which has twice daily availability, and daily standard MODIS products for use in mapping and tracking sea surface oil. The effectiveness of the MODIS products was determined by comparing the MODIS data with surface water samples and digital photography taken aboard the research vessel Pelican between May 5 and May 15, 2010 within the Gulf of Mexico. MODIS standard products are produced by applying atmospheric corrections and algorithms to selected bands of MODIS data. The products that showed the greatest potential for oil detection were sea surface temperature and chlorophyll concentration. The map image shown below compares the chlorophyll concentration from May 12, 2010 to the approximate oil area from May 11, 2010 revealing a possible correlation. The use of MODIS imagery and products has limiting factors that affect the ability to detect oil on the sea surface, and include: cloud cover, surface oil thickness, and low resolution of data products and in this particular event, the use of dispersant. In general, MODIS imagery and products are not as useful in mapping sea surface oil as airborne methods (laser fluorosensors, IR/UV sensors, microwave radiometer sensors, and others), but using them in conjunction with other data has proven effective in other spill events. The Deepwater Horizon oil well rupture was a popular topic at OCEANS this year.

(October 2010)