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Spectroscopic remote sensing of the distribution and persistence of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in Barataria Bay marshes

February 13, 2013

We applied a spectroscopic analysis to Airborne Visible/InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) data collected from low and medium altitudes during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to delineate the distribution of oil-damaged canopies in the marshes of Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Spectral feature analysis compared the AVIRIS data to reference spectra of oiled marsh by using absorption features centered near 1.7 and 2.3 μm, which arise from CH bonds in oil. AVIRIS-derived maps of oiled shorelines from the individual dates of July 31, September 14, and October 4, 2010, were 89.3%, 89.8%, and 90.6% accurate, respectively. A composite map at 3.5 m grid spacing, accumulated from the three dates, was 93.4% accurate in detecting oiled shorelines. The composite map had 100% accuracy for detecting damaged plant canopy in oiled areas that extended more than 1.2 m into the marsh. Spatial resampling of the AVIRIS data to 30 m reduced the accuracy to 73.6% overall. However, detection accuracy remained high for oiled canopies that extended more than 4 m into the marsh (23 of 28 field reference points with oil were detected). Spectral resampling of the 3.5 m AVIRIS data to Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM) spectral response greatly reduced the detection of oil spectral signatures. With spatial resampling of simulated Landsat ETM data to 30 m, oil signatures were not detected. Overall, ~ 40 km of coastline, marsh comprised mainly of Spartina alterniflora and Juncus roemerianus, were found to be oiled in narrow zones at the shorelines. Zones of oiled canopies reached on average 11 m into the marsh, with a maximum reach of 21 m. The field and airborne data showed that, in many areas, weathered oil persisted in the marsh from the first field survey, July 10, to the latest airborne survey, October 4, 2010. The results demonstrate the applicability of high spatial resolution imaging spectrometer data to identifying contaminants in the environment for use in evaluating ecosystem disturbance and response.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2013
Title Spectroscopic remote sensing of the distribution and persistence of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in Barataria Bay marshes
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2012.10.028
Authors Raymond F. Kokaly, Brady Couvillion, JoAnn M. Holloway, Dar A. Roberts, Susan L. Ustin, Seth H. Peterson, Shruti Khanna, Sarai C. Piazza
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing of Environment
Series Number
Index ID 70197217
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center