May 6, 2010 - Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico

Two weeks after the April 20 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil slick lingered not far from the Mississippi Delta. On May 4, 2010, the MODIS on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image of the oil slick. The slick appears as an uneven gray shape immediately north of a bank of clouds. Sunlight bouncing off the ocean surface gives the oil slick a mirror-like reflection easily detected by satellite sensors.

Although the oil visible in this image appears fairly distant from the coastline, NatureNews reported that the western edge of the slick had been brushing up against the Mississippi Delta since April 30. Model predictions put the oil slick near the coast of Louisiana by May 4 or 5, but changing winds pushed the oil farther away from land on May 4. Ecologists still worried, however, that the oil might drift into the path of the Loop Current, which carries warm water from the Yucatán Peninsula across the Gulf of Mexico and toward Florida. The current had the potential to spread oil to the shores to Mississippi, Alabama, the east coast of Florida, and the Florida Keys.

The Pentagon approved the deployment of as many as 17,500 National Guard soldiers to assist with cleanup efforts, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, well operators considered drilling a relief well—a diagonal well intersecting the original that could be filled with mud or concrete to block the oil.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 05/04/2010
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC