Oil spills can harm marine life in the oceans, estuaries, and wetlands. To limit the damage by a spill and facilitate cleanup efforts, emergency managers need information on spill location, size and extent, direction and speed of oil movement, and wind, current, and wave information for predicting oil drift and dispersion. The main operational data requirements are fast turn-around time and frequent imaging to monitor the dynamics of the spill. Remote sensors on satellites and aircraft meet most of these requirements by tracking the spilled oil at various resolutions, over wide areas, and at frequent intervals. They also provide key inputs to drift prediction models and facilitate targeting of skimming and booming efforts. Satellite data are frequently supplemented by information provided by aircraft, ships, and remotely-controlled underwater robots. The Sea Princess tanker grounding off the coast of Wales and the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico provide good examples for studying the effectiveness of remote sensors during oil-spill emergencies.
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