Oil spill detection with fully polarimetric UAVSAR data

Mar Pollut Bull. 2011 Dec;62(12):2611-8. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.09.036. Epub 2011 Oct 22.


In this study, two ocean oil spill detection approaches based on four scattering matrices measured by fully polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) are presented and compared. The first algorithm is based on the co-polar correlation coefficient, ρ, and the scattering matrix decomposition parameters, Cloud entropy (H), mean scattering angle (α) and anisotropy (A). While each of these parameters has oil spill signature in it, we find that combining these parameters into a new parameter, F, is a more effective way for oil slick detection. The second algorithm uses the total power of four polarimetric channels image (SPAN) to find the optimal representation of the oil spill signature. Otsu image segmentation method can then be applied to the F and SPAN images to extract the oil slick features. Using the L-band fully polarimetric Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle - synthetic aperture radar (UAVSAR) data acquired during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster event in the Gulf of Mexico, we are able to successfully extract the oil slick information in the contaminated ocean area. Our result shows that both algorithms perform well in identifying oil slicks in this case.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Disasters
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Models, Chemical
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Petroleum / analysis*
  • Petroleum Pollution / analysis*
  • Radar
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Petroleum
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical