Oil slick morphology derived from AVIRIS measurements of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Implications for spatial resolution requirements of remote sensors

Mar Pollut Bull. 2016 Feb 15;103(1-2):276-285. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.12.003. Epub 2015 Dec 22.


Using fine spatial resolution (~7.6m) hyperspectral AVIRIS data collected over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we statistically estimated slick lengths, widths and length/width ratios to characterize oil slick morphology for different thickness classes. For all AVIRIS-detected oil slicks (N=52,100 continuous features) binned into four thickness classes (≤50 μm but thicker than sheen, 50-200 μm, 200-1000 μm, and >1000 μm), the median lengths, widths, and length/width ratios of these classes ranged between 22 and 38 m, 7-11 m, and 2.5-3.3, respectively. The AVIRIS data were further aggregated to 30-m (Landsat resolution) and 300-m (MERIS resolution) spatial bins to determine the fractional oil coverage in each bin. Overall, if 50% fractional pixel coverage were to be required to detect oil with thickness greater than sheen for most oil containing pixels, a 30-m resolution sensor would be needed.

Keywords: AVIRIS; Landsat; MERIS; Morphology; Oil spill; Remote sensing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Mexico
  • Petroleum Pollution*
  • Water Movements