Gulf oil spill: view from the air


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NASA’s Earth Observatory reports:

This image of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was captured on April 25 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, orMODIS, on NASA’s Aqua satellite. An estimated 42,000 gallons of oil per day were leaking from an exploration well after the April 20 explosion.

The Mississippi Delta is at image center, and the oil slick is a silvery swirl to the right. The oil slick may be particularly obvious because it is occurring in the sun-glint area, where the mirror-like reflection of the sun off the water gives the Gulf of Mexico a washed-out look.


The initial explosion killed 11 people and injured several others, and a fire burned at the location for more than a day until the damaged oil rig sank. An emergency response effort is underway to stop the flow of oil and contain the existing slick before it reaches wildlife refuges and beaches in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The slick may contain dispersant or other chemicals that emergency responders are using to control the spread of the oil, and it is unknown how much of the 700,000 gallons of fuel that were on the oil rig burned in the fire and how much may have spilled into the water when the platform sank.
Twice-daily images of the Gulf Coast are available from the MODIS Rapid Response Team in additional resolutions and formats, including a geo-referenced file that can be used with Google Earth.

To see more Earth Observatory images of this event, click here.

--Margot Roosevelt