This study demonstrates a method to estimate floating oil slick thickness based on remote sensing of thermal infrared contrast. The approach was demonstrated for thick oil slicks from natural seeps in the Coal Oil Point seep field, offshore southern California. Airborne thermal infrared and visible spectrum remote sensing imagery were acquired along with position and orientation data by the SeaSpires™ science package. Remote sensing data were acquired in the cross-slick direction of oil slick segments that were targeted for collection, termed "collects." A collect consisted of booming, skimming, and offloading the oil slick segment into buckets for analysis at the laboratory. Each collect provided an in-scene calibration point of oil thickness versus brightness temperature contrast, ΔTB , where TB is the sensor-reported temperature based on the emitted thermal radiation and differs from the true temperature due to the oil's emissivity. ΔTB is the TB difference between the oil and oil-free sea surface. Thus, this study is a reverse planned oil-release experiment that demonstrates the value of natural seeps for oil spill science. • Novel approach to quantify floating oil thickness • Custom modified weir skimmer used with added floor and structural strengthening.
Keywords: Airborne oil thickness mapping; Emissivity; Floating oil; Oil collection.
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