Oil Slicks Overview
Every year oceans, seas and coasts are polluted by oil spills, commonly caused by tanker ruptures, illegal oil discharges by ships or natural oil seepage. The majority of these are only minor, but while bigger events are rare they can greatly harm the local ecology and biology.
Oil slicks are difficult to control, as their evolution depends on weather, currents, tides, and many chemical and physical factors (like the presence of icebergs). It is important to get an overall view of the phenomenon to determine its extent and, if possible, to predict the way it will move.
The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument, which can collect data independently of weather and light conditions, is an excellent tool to monitor and detect oil on water surfaces. This instrument offers the most effective means of monitoring oil pollution: oil slicks appear as dark patches on SAR images because of the damping effect of the oil on the backscattered signals from the radar instrument.
Satellite Planning for gas leak at Elgin Platform (North Sea), March 2012
Envisat satellite planning and images of the gas leak at Elgin Platform in the North Sea, March 2012.
Gulf of Mexico, April - May 2010
The plan to start choking off oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico was suddenly halted as government officials and BP said further analysis must be done Wednesday before critical tests could proceed. No explanation was given for the decision, and no date was set for when testing would begin on the new, tighter-fitting cap BP installed on the blown-out well Monday. In the meantime, oil continued spewing into the Gulf.