WP3: Oil Spill Remote Sensing

Icon Surface slicks

Satellite remote sensing is an ideal tool for detecting and characterizing marine surface slicks. In the Arctic environment can such slicks be made up of, e.g., mineral oil, algae blooms, and newly formed sea ice.

Improved knowledge about the behavior and fate of mineral oil in icy waters aids protecting precious marine and coastal environments in the case of pollution. In addition, global warming makes phytoplankton blooms become more common. Hence, a natural extension of our research is to include studies of marine primary production and water quality.

As very thin sea ice and sea surface slicks from accidental oil spills look alike in satellite data, both can be studied using same methods and technology. Image credit: Malin Johansson, UiT.
The damping ratio is used to derive oil spill shapes from satellite images and provide input to the OpenOil drift model. Image processed by Victor de Aguiar, UiT.
Trios Ramses optical ocean colour sensor. Image credit: Muhammad Asim, UiT.

We develop remote sensing technologies for marine surface oil detection and characterization, and to improve modeling of oil behavior and fate in icy waters, both those of anthropogenic and natural origin. During oil spill clean-up operations, authorities need to know where thicker mineral oil is located, and where it may be moving due to wind and ocean currents. By combining synthetic aperture radar satellite images and numerical modelling, we can identify an oil slick and predict where it is heading.

The Norwegian coastline is dominated by long and narrow fjords, and the water there is a mix of saline seawater and freshwater from land. In fjord sea ice with mixed salinities, oil behaves differently as in the open sea ice. This may have an impact in case of a near-costal oil pollution incident and hence forms another research direction.

Research tasks

Detection and characterization of oil spills on open water

Oil spill detection in fjord sea ice

Integration of drift modelling and remote sensing for marine environmental monitoring

Ocean colour remote sensing

Team members

Malin Johansson

Associate Professor, WP3 leader, WP6 co-leader, UiT


Using satellite images to study Arctic sea ice and oil spills

Christian Petrich

WP3 co-leader, Norut Narvik

Victor de Aguiar

PhD candidate, UiT


Oil Spill Remote Sensing and Modelling

Cornelius Quigley

Post Doc, UiT


Determination of the Dielectric Properties of Marie Surface Slicks Using Synthetic Aperture Radar

Muhammad Asim

PhD candidate, UiT


Optical Remote Sensing for Water Quality Parameters Retrieval in the Barents Sea, Nansen Legacy project

Katalin Blix

Researcher, UiT


Ocean color and water quality remote sensing

Cathleen Jones

Adjunct Professor, JPL/NASA

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