Satellite observations and modeling of oil spill trajectories in the Bohai Sea

Qing Xu, Xiaofeng Li, Yongliang Wei, Zeyan Tang, Yongcun Cheng, William G Pichel
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2013 June 15, 71 (1): 107-16
On June 4 and 17, 2011, separate oil spill accidents occurred at two oil platforms in the Bohai Sea, China. The oil spills were subsequently observed on different types of satellite images including SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar), Chinese HJ-1-B CCD and NASA MODIS. To illustrate the fate of the oil spills, we performed two numerical simulations to simulate the trajectories of the oil spills with the GNOME (General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment) model. For the first time, we drive the GNOME with currents obtained from an operational ocean model (NCOM, Navy Coastal Ocean Model) and surface winds from operational scatterometer measurements (ASCAT, the Advanced Scatterometer). Both data sets are freely and openly available. The initial oil spill location inputs to the model are based on the detected oil spill locations from the SAR images acquired on June 11 and 14. Three oil slicks are tracked simultaneously and our results show good agreement between model simulations and subsequent satellite observations in the semi-enclosed shallow sea. Moreover, GNOME simulation shows that the number of 'splots', which denotes the extent of spilled oil, is a vital factor for GNOME running stability when the number is less than 500. Therefore, oil spill area information obtained from satellite sensors, especially SAR, is an important factor for setting up the initial model conditions.

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