PASADENA, Calif. – Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have developed a method to use a specialized NASA 3-D imaging radar to characterize the oil in oil spills, such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The research can be used to improve response operations during future marine oil spills.
Caltech graduate student Brent Minchew and JPL researchers Cathleen Jones and Ben Holt analyzed NASA radar imagery collected over the main slick of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on June 22 and June 23, 2010. The data were acquired by the JPL-developed Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) during the first of its three deployments over the spill area between June 2010 and July 2012. The UAVSAR was carried in a pod mounted beneath a NASA C-20A piloted aircraft, a version of the Gulfstream III business jet, based at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The researchers demonstrated, for the first time, that a radar system like UAVSAR can be used to characterize the oil within a slick, distinguishing very thin films like oil sheen from more damaging thick oil emulsions. (more…)