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Monitoring Of Oil Pollution Using Earth Observation Data (MOPED)

Valborg Byfield(1), Olga Lavrova(2), Stanislav Ermakov(3), Sergey Stanichny(4), Andrey Kostianoy(5), Martin Gade(6), Ramiz Mamedov(7) and Jose da Silva(8)

(1) National Oceanography Centre, European Wy, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom
(2) Russian Academy of Sciences, 84/32 Profsoyuznaya Str, 117997 Moscow, Russian Federation
(3) Russian Academy of Sciences, 46, Uljanov Str, 603600 Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Federation
(4) National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kapitanskaya str. 2, 99011 Sevastopol, Ukraine
(5) Russian Academy of Sciences, 36, Nahimovski prospect, 117997 Moscow, Russian Federation
(6) University of Hamburg, Bundesstr. 53, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany
(7) Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, 31, H.Javid str., Baku AZ1143, Azerbaijan
(8) University of Lisbon, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal


Satellite detection of oil spills with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) has been in quasi-operational use for some time, and is a useful monitoring tool in areas where the risk of pollution is high. SAR data provides reasonably reliable information about the position and extent of surface oil, particularly when the data are interpreted by experts. Nevertheless, detection based only on SAR data is still problematic because of the difficulty in distinguishing oil slicks, especially at lower wind speeds, from other phenomena known as oil "look-alikes". Phenomena giving rise to "look-alikes" include biogenic films, areas of wind-shadow near coasts, rain cells, zones of upwelling, internal waves and oceanic or atmospheric fronts. The contrast between a spill and the surrounding water, and thus the probability of detecting pollution films, depends both on the amount and type of oil and on environmental factors such as wind speed, wave height, sea surface temperature (SST), currents and current shift zones. Environmental factors also determine spreading, drift and weathering of spilt oil and should be considered when developing detection algorithms, interpreting image data, and planning a monitoring regime. Experienced gained from past monitoring campaigns clearly demonstrate that the best approach for operational monitoring of oil pollution would be quasi-simultaneous employment of different remote sensing instruments operating both in active and passive modes, in different bands (optical, infrared, microwave) and with different look parameters.

MOPED (Monitoring of Oil Pollution using Earth Observation Data) is an INTAS project supported by ESA, intended to develop such a 'multi-sensor' approach to oil spill monitoring for the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. The project brings together expertise from six countries, including Azerbaijan, Germany, Portugal, Russia, and Ukraine. MOPED addresses the problem of creating reliable oil detection algorithms by combining the synergistic use of satellite data with experimental studies and numerical modelling. Satellite data at optical, infrared and microwave frequencies are used to monitor water quality and provide background information on parameters controlling the formation, transport and evolution of oil slicks. This information is used with existing hydrodynamic models, with a view to developing recommendations for the assimilation of satellite data into the models to provide improved predictions for oil spill transport and evolution. This is combined with experimental studies that involve field experiments, and the sampling of marine pollutant films and laboratory measurements of their physical characteristics, which influence their wave-damping capacity. Results from these experiments are combined with models of wave damping by organic films, and models of the scattering of electromagnetic waves at radar frequencies. MOPED is also investigating the extent to which optical algorithms developed for use in oil spill monitoring using aircraft may by adapted to the use of optical satellite data as a supporting tool for SAR under cloud free conditions. The project’s philosophy is demonstrated here by means of first results from the analyses of satellite data, and from laboratory and field experiments with natural and artificial marine surface films.


Workshop presentation

Keywords: ESA European Space Agency - Agence spatiale europeenne, observation de la terre, earth observation, satellite remote sensing, teledetection, geophysique, altimetrie, radar, chimique atmospherique, geophysics, altimetry, radar, atmospheric chemistry