Oil Spills

The Gulf of Mexico is well known for its oil slicks on surface water due to natural oil seeps. In addition, accidental oil spills also occur irregularly.

The Deepwater Horizon spill in spring-summer 2020 represents a hundred-year event, but other accidents can also result in large volume of oil released in water.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, April 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill April 21, 2010

In September 2004, an oil platform in the Mississippi Canyon 20 (MC-20) site was damaged by Hurricane Ivan, after which crude oil was leaked to water continuously.

The image below shows how often surface oil slicks can be observed around the MC-20 site.

Mississippi Canyon 20 (MC20) Oil Discharge


GLIMRs staring capacity makes it much easier to track surface oil with its many spectral bands enabling the differentiation of different oil types:

  • crude oil,
  • oil-in-water emulsion, and
  • water-in-oil emulsion.
differentiation of different oil types

Figure from Sun et al. (2018)