ESTIMATION OF THE THICKNESS AND EMULSION RATE OF OIL SPILLED AT SEA USING HYPERSPECTRAL REMOTE SENSING IMAGERY IN THE SWIR DOMAIN
Keywords: hyperspectral, oil spill, thickness, emulsion rate
Abstract. The thickness and the emulsion rate of an oil spill are two key parameters allowing to design a tailored response to an oil discharge. If estimated on per pixel basis at a high spatial resolution, the estimation of the oil thickness allows the volume of pollutant to be estimated, and that volume is needed in order to evaluate the magnitude of the pollution, and to determine the most adapted recovering means to use. The estimation of the spatial distribution of the thicknesses also allows the guidance of the recovering means at sea. The emulsion rate can guide the strategy to adopt in order to deal with an offshore oil spill: efficiency of dispersants is for example not identical on a pure oil or on an emulsion. Moreover, the thickness and emulsion rate allow the amount of the oil that has been discharged to be estimated. It appears that the shape of the reflectance spectrum of oil in the SWIR range (1000–2500nm) varies according to the emulsion rate and to the layer thickness. That shape still varies when the oil layer reaches a few millimetres, which is not the case in the visible range (400–700nm), where the spectral variation saturates around 200 μm (the upper limit of the Bonn agreement oil appearance code). In that context, hyperspectral imagery in the SWIR range shows a high potential to describe and characterize oil spills. Previous methods which intend to estimate those two parameters are based on the use of a spectral library. In that paper, we will present a method based on the inversion of a simple radiative transfer model in the oil layer. We will show that the proposed method is robust against another parameter that affects the reflectance spectrum: the size of water droplets in the emulsion. The method shows relevant results using measurements made in laboratory, equivalent to the ones obtained using methods based on the use of a spectral library. The method has the advantage to release the need of a spectral library, and to provide maps of thickness and emulsion rate values per pixel. The maps obtained are not composed of regions of thickness ranges, such as the ones obtained using discretized levels of measurements in the spectral library, or maps made from visual observations following the Bonn agreement oil appearance code.