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Polarimetric Analysis of Backscatter From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Using L-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar

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3 Author(s)
Brent Minchew ; Seismological Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena , CA, USA ; Cathleen E. Jones ; Benjamin Holt

We analyze the fully-polarimetric Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) data acquired on June 23, 2010, from two adjacent, overlapping flight tracks that imaged the main oil slick near the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) rig site in the Gulf of Mexico. Our results show that radar backscatter from both clean water and oil in the slick is predominantly from a single surface scatterer, consistent with the tilted Bragg scattering mechanism, across the range of incidence angles from 26° to 60°. We show that the change of backscatter over the main slick is due both to a damping of the ocean wave spectral components by the oil and an effective reduction of the dielectric constant resulting from a mixture of 65-90% oil with water in the surface layer. This shows that synthetic aperture radar can be used to measure the oil volumetric concentration in a thick slick. Using the H/A/α parameters, we show that surface scattering is dominant for oil and water whenever the data are above the noise floor and that the entropy (H) and α parameters for the DWH slick are comparable to those from the clean water. The anisotropy, A, parameter shows substantial variation across the oil slick and a significant range-dependent signal whenever the backscatter in all channels is above the instrument noise floor. For slick detection, we find the most reliable indicator to be the major eigenvalue of the coherency matrix, which is approximately equal to the total backscatter power for both oil in the slick and clean sea water.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:50 ,  Issue: 10 )