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Oil Spill Detection and Monitoring from Satellite Image

S. B. Mansor, H. Assilzadeh, H.M. Ibrahim, A. R. Mohamd
Spatial and Numerical Modeling Laboratory
Institute of Advanced Technology, University Putra Malaysia,
43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Email : shattri@putra.upm.edu.my, assilzadeh@yahoo.com

The very nature of marine oil spills massive quantities covering vast areas open ocean and/or coastline necessitates the use of satellite remote sensing to supplement other aerial observations. Remote sensing instrumentation is constrained to work in areas of the electromagnetic spectrum, which transmit sufficient quantities of radiation such as the microwave, thermal, near infrared, visible and near ultraviolet. Within these windows, there is usually further attenuation of radiation by cloud cover and inclement weather. In general, satellites using electro-optical detectors have problems seeing through cloud cover and at night. There is also problems with the majority of optical remote sensing techniques used for oil spill detection which is the high number of false alarms; i.e. oil slick look-a-likes, phenomena which give rise to signals which appear to be oil but are not (O’Neil, 1983; Goodman, 1989 and 1992; Schnell, 1992; Thornton, 1992;). Visible satellite systems are susceptible to false alarms due to sun glint, wind sheen, bottom features, cloud shadows, and biogenic material such as surface weeds and sunken kelp beds (Goodman, 1988 and 1989; Fingas et al., 1990 and 1992).

There are certain times when visual techniques and optical satellite image are unsuitable for mapping of oil spill; it is in these cases where radar remote sensing is required. These situations include spills covering vast areas of the marine environment, and when the oil cannot be seen or discriminated against the background. The discrimination of oil in these circumstances presents several unique problems. The remotely sensed data collected in these situations often provide complex signatures, which must be deciphered in order to locate the spilled oil. Environmental conditions such as precipitation, fog, and the amounts of daylight present also may pose problems especially in optical images.

In this study in order to minimize these problems and reduce the response time and facilitate the decision-making process in the event of oil spill, application of radar image as an operational tool has been suggested. The aim of this study is to construct a developed early warning system for the potential and accidental oil spills in water environment. New techniques such as radar image processing have been used in order to make the proper distinctions between different thickness of oil spill; The results of this research shows that with radar information, the signature of oil can be used to detect minute concentrations of hydrocarbon (oil spill) on the sea and it can distinguish between different types of its thickness.

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