Envisat Imaging Spectrometer and Space Sensors to Monitor Oil Spill

The Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill is moving to the Lousiana coast as per the most recent image provided by the Envisat of ESA.

ESA Envisat ASAR Acquired Image

On April 22, 2010, The International Charter Space and Major Disasters were requested to offer speedy access to optical satellite and radar imagery of the oil spill by the U.S. Geological Survey who is acting for the U.S. Coast Guard. A range of space sensors, including Envisat’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) and the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) are monitoring the situation in response to the request.

The charter represents a global collaboration among space agencies around the world to make available satellite remote sensing to civil protection and other agencies in order to monitor man-made and natural disasters.

For detecting such oil spills the radar is well suited since it functions in both day and night. It is able to view through clouds which optical sensors are unable to do. It is also sensitive to smoother surfaces of water caused due to the oil’s presence. Based on the situation, optical satellites find it harder to detect oil since the water surface changes are not as pronounced in the observations.

Since the oil spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. has been using Envisat’s ASAR and MERIS to collect almost real-time data. The recently captured ASAR’s black-and-white image depicts the oil spill as a light grey whirl on the left hand side of the big black pattern present across the Gulf. MERIS has acquired a color image of this spill.

According to recent reports,  the oil spill has spread to within five kilometer of the coast and has been found to be five times larger than that initially estimated, causing fears of an environmental disaster. Efforts have been initiated utilizing all resources available to avert the environmental catastrophe. The U.S. authorities are being provided with the Envisat images as soon as they are acquired through the charter.

Source: http://www.esa.int

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