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Oil Spill Detection Using Optical Sensors: A Multi-Temporal Approach

Roberto Luciani 1, Giovanni LANEVE 1


Oil pollution is one of the most destructive consequences due to human activities in the marine environment. Oil wastes come from many sources and take decades to be disposed of. Satellite based remote sensing systems can be implemented into a surveillance and monitoring network. In this study, a multi-temporal approach to the oil spill detection problem is investigated. Change Detection (CD) analysis was applied to MODIS/Terra and Aqua and OLI/Landsat 8 images of several reported oil spill events, characterized by different geographic location, sea conditions, source and extension of the spill. Toward the development of an automatic detection algorithm, a Change Vector Analysis (CVA) technique was implemented to carry out the comparison between the current image of the area of interest and a dataset of reference image, statistically analyzed to reduce the sea spectral variability between different dates. The proposed approach highlights the optical sensors’ capabilities in detecting oil spills at sea. The effectiveness of different sensors’ resolution towards the detection of spills of different size, and the relevance of the sensors’ revisiting time to track and monitor the evolution of the event is also investigated.


Oil spill; MODIS; Landsat 8; change vector analysis; Gulf of Mexico; Refugio; Zakynthos

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