MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) sensors have been demonstrated to detect oil slicks in the visible and near infrared (VNIR), as they are sensitive to brightness anomalies in sun glint caused by oil-induced wave dampening. In my research this past summer with the NASA Student Airborne Research Program I built on this phenomenon by evaluating the ability of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) VNIR sensors to map the hydrocarbon seeps located at Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel, demonstrating the potential of high-spatial resolution of ASTER imagery to improve optical imaging of oil slicks. To this end I analyzed two ASTER images taken on 7 August 2007 and 18 May 2015 for surface oil slicks using Cox and Munk’s Sea Surface Slope Variance Model (1954), under the assumption that both the Fresnel reflection coefficient and the degree of wave dampening are dependent upon oil thickness and emulsion levels.
This coming year I will to expand considerably on this research, demonstrating the capability of ASTER to characterize sea roughness phenomena under sun glint conditions by comparing data to contemporaneous images of previously published studies (such as the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, of which over 20 ASTER images were captured, or the known Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela spills). In addition, a lab component will be developed to evaluate in situ the effect of different oil thicknesses, wind speeds, and solar/sensor geometry on at-sensor reflectance. These studies will provide a framework for quantitative evaluation of ASTER’s potential for slick monitoring.