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ESA’s Envisat Monitors Oil Spill
May 2010
NEW ORLEANS, May 3, 2010 — In order to observe clean-up efforts involving the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, the US Geological Survey, on behalf of the US Coast Guard, requested satellite maps of the area from the International Charter Space and Major Disasters. The Charter is an international collaboration, initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency, CNES, to put satellite remote sensing at the service of civil protection agencies and others in response to natural and man-made disasters.

This is an Envisat optical image of the oil spill (visible as a white whirl on the right) in the Gulf of Mexico. The image was acquired from the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on April 25, 2010, at 16:28 UTC. (Images: European Space Agency)

These ESA Envisat images capture the oil that began spilling on April 22 after a drilling rig operated by BP plc exploded and sank off the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

In the black-and-white radar image shown here, the oil spill is visible as a dark grey whirl in the bottom right, while in the optical image it is seen as a white whirl. The Mississippi Delta is at top left, and the Delta National Wildlife Refuge extends out into the gulf.

This Envisat radar image captures the oil that is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico after a drilling rig exploded and sank off the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi on April 22, 2010. The oil spill is visible as a dark gray whirl in the bottom right. Envisat acquired this image from its Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar on April 26 at 15:58 UTC.

Officials report that up to 5,000 barrels (200,000 gal.) of oil a day is escaping from a damaged well located 1.5 km under the surface where the drilling rig once stood. At last report, the first thin film of oil residue was approaching the shores of the Gulf Coast, with the thicker part of the slick being pushed coastward by six- to eight-foot waves.

The US Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the London-based BP and oil industry experts are attempting to stem the leak and prevent it reaching the Gulf Coast and the fragile ecosystem there.

For more information, visit: 

Advanced Synthetic Aperture RadarAmericasBP plcCNESDelta National Wildlife RefugeEcosystemEnvisatESAEuropeEuropean Space Agencygreen photonicsGulf of MexicoimagingInternational Charter Space and Major DisastersLouisianaMedium Resolution Imaging SpectrometerMERISMississippiMississippi DeltaNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationNOAAoil spillopticsspectroscopyUS Coast GuardUS Geological Survey

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