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Oil spill in the Mediterranean

08 October 2018

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The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission is monitoring the oil spill in the Mediterranean (Thyrrenian Sea) following a collision between two merchant ships on Sunday 7 October 2018. A Tunisian cargo ship is reported to have struck the hull of a Cypriot container ship in waters north of the French island of Corsica. There were no casualties, but the collision caused a fuel leak – which has resulted in an oil slick about 20 km long. Although the collision occurred in French waters, the cleanup operation is part of a joint pact between France, Italy and Monaco to address pollution accidents in the Mediterranean.

This image of the slick, which can be seen as a dark patch north of the tip of Corsica, was captured by the Sentinel-1A satellite today at 05:28 GMT (07:28 CEST). Sentinel-1 is a two-satellite constellation built for the European Commission's Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. The identical satellites each carry an advanced radar instrument that can ‘see' through the dark and through clouds. Its wide swath allows large areas of Earth's surface to be imaged so that events such as this can be detected and monitored easily. Sentinel-1 images are used by the European Maritime Safety Agency as part of CleanSeaNet, the European satellite-based oil spill and vessel detection service.

Note: other dark areas show patterns featuring low reflectivity of the radar signal, for instance very calm waters.

oil slick sentinel-1

This first image shows that the oil slick was about 20 km long. By the evening at 19:21 CEST, however, imagery shows that the slick had lengthened to about 35 km. And 24 hours later, on 9 October at 19:14 CEST, the slick had grown to about 60 km long.

oil spill spread

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