The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon (MC-252) drilling platform on 20 April 2010 began a long response by the
United Area Command. Previous responses to oil spills were limited in time due to the amount of oil spilled and were
generally confined to the surface. Some of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in 1500 meters of water broke
into smaller droplets, whose density caused much of the oil to stay within a zone from 1000 to 1300 meters depth. The
remainder of the oil rose to the surface. The two primary locations of oil required a broad collection of remote sensing
techniques to locate and monitor the oil spill.
Surface oil was monitored primarily from the air using aircraft and satellite assets. Satellite visible, infra-red, and radar
satellite imagery helped to locate oil in the northern Gulf of Mexico and help predict its movement away from the spill
site. Daily over-flights by aircraft provided higher spatial and temporal resolution data that were assimilated into daily
products. These remote sensing assets were able to track the surface oil, but the subsurface oil required different
techniques. In addition to salinity and temperature profiles to determine the subsurface structure, fluorometry and
dissolved oxygen measurements provided information related to oil and its consumption by microorganisms. Water
samples collected from CTD casts were analyzed on-board and returned to on-shore laboratories.
Richard L. Crout, Richard L. Crout,
"Measurements in support of the Deepwater Horizon (MC-252) oil spill response", Proc. SPIE 8030, Ocean Sensing and Monitoring III, 80300J (4 May 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.888006; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.888006