Oil Spills: Method for Measuring Their Extent on the Sea Surface

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Science  14 Aug 1970:
Vol. 169, Issue 3946, pp. 676-678
DOI: 10.1126/science.169.3946.676


It is difficult to estimate the area affected by an oil spill at sea, the degree of coverage by oil pollutants within the affected area, and the quantity of pollutants involved. Estimates of volumes and flow rates are based on estimated changes in areal extent of the spill. Uncertainties in measurement of area degrade the accuracy of estimating other parameters. To resolve this problem, available stock components have now been assembled into a system that yields repeatable, economical measurement of the areal extent of oil spills at acceptable levels of accuracy. The system comprises overflights with a thermal infrared imaging system, densitometric color enhancement of the infrared images, and automatic digital planimetry of the areas of specified image densities.

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