Coastal pollution hazards in southern California observed by SAR imagery: Stormwater plumes, wastewater plumes, and natural hydrocarbon seeps

Paul M. DiGiacomo, Libe Washburn, Benjamin Holt, Burton Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

Stormwater runoff plumes, municipal wastewater plumes, and natural hydrocarbon seeps are important pollution hazards for the heavily populated Southern California Bight (SCB). Due to their small size, dynamic and episodic nature, these hazards are difficult to sample adequately using traditional in situ oceanographic methods. Complex coastal circulation and persistent cloud cover can further complicate detection and monitoring of these hazards. We use imagery from space-borne synthetic aperture radar (SAR), complemented by field measurements, to examine these hazards in the SCB. The hazards are detectable in SAR imagery because they deposit surfactants on the sea surface, smoothing capillary and small gravity waves to produce areas of reduced backscatter compared with the surrounding ocean. We suggest that high-resolution SAR, which obtains useful data regardless of darkness or cloud cover, could be an important observational tool for assessment and monitoring of coastal marine pollution hazards in the SCB and other urbanized coastal regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1013-1024
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Volume49
Issue number11-12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004

Keywords

  • Hydrocarbon seeps
  • Runoff
  • Slicks
  • Southern California
  • Synthetic aperture radar
  • Wastewater, plumes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution

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