MOSAC-08-02 Shore-based photogrammetry of surface oceanography for oil spill mitigation

Andrew J. Pershing
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

350 Commercial St.
Portland, ME 04101
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Portland is the third largest oil terminal port in the United States, a major portion of the oil arriving in New England comes through Maine. To enter these ports, tankers must traverse some of the most lucrative fishing grounds in the world and pass by fragile wetland and salt marsh habitats. The potential impacts of an oil spill in Maine were made abundantly clear during the 1996 spill of the Julie N in Portland Harbor.

Oil spill response and planning requires detailed information on the movements of the top few centimeters of the ocean. The goal of this one-year pilot study was to assess the feasibility of using low-cost digital cameras to collect information about surface ocean conditions. The project focused on highly reflective areas of smooth water caused by natural oils
in the environment. These “slicks” indicate areas where surface currents converge, and are a good analog for where oil would accumulate following a spill. Cameras installed on the Casco Bay Bridge and at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute collected one image per minute during daylight hours from June 2008 to May 2009. A meteorological station collected wind speed and direction data. Using the imagery, Pershing then developed an algorithm to automatically map areas of high reflectivity indicating slicks, and developed a climatology of the presence of these features in Portland Harbor.

Read the final report.

Related projects:
MOSAC-05-01 Assessment of nursery habitats in Casco Bay
MOSAC-04-01 Observations of tidal, subtidal, and seasonable variability in Casco Bay circulation
MOSAC-03-03 A field study of circulation patterns in Cobscook Bay