The press release from Goddard Space Flight Center showing sunglints suggesting they are all from the oil slick is wrong. Satellite specialist Dr. Roy Spencer writes in to show me a different MODIS/AQUA image from three days ago that shows clearly where the slick is and is not:
high res 1 km image here
To lend credence to Dr. Spencer’s claim, I searched and found another MODIS/AQUA image that shows a splotch of what looks exactly like what GSFC describes as the “gray-beige colored spill”, except this is all along the west coast of Florida. Clearly it is an optical effect, not an oil spill.
This suggests then that the GSFC press release has misidentified the optical effect as being the entire Gulf oil spill. The spill is there, as illustrated in the image at top, but it is not the entire “gray-beige colored” area seen in the GSFC press release image. – Anthony
UPDATE2: Skytruth has a better image which shows the extent, also taken on May 18th, but at much closer zoom level.
Envisat ASAR image, May 18, 2010. Image courtesy CSTARS.
There is also an overlay showing the sat image with Google Earth, that gives a better idea of scale, after the “Continue reading => ” line.
GSFC Via Eurekalert:
At 3 p.m. EDT on May 18, NASA’s Aqua satellite swept over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from its vantage point in space and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument captured sunglints in a visible image of the spill.
The visible image showed three bright areas of sunglint within the area of the gray-beige colored spill. Sunglint is a mirror-like reflection of the sun off the water’s surface. In calm waters, the rounded image of the sun would be seen in a satellite image. However, the waves in the Gulf blurred the reflection and created an appearance of three bright areas in a line on the ocean’s surface.
According to the May 18 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web update of the Deepwater Horizon incident, “satellite imagery on May 17 indicated that the main bulk of the oil is dozens of miles away from the Loop Current, but that a tendril of light oil has been transported down close to the Loop Current.”
The May 18 NOAA update also noted that “NOAA extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf into the northern portion of the loop current as a precautionary measure to ensure seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers. The closed area is now slightly less than 19 percent of the Gulf of Mexico federal waters.”
Here is a Google Earth overlay view of the area shown in the photo:
Other image sizes available: