Classification of oil slicks and look-alike slicks: A linear discriminant analysis of microwave, infrared, and optical satellite measurements

Gustavo de Araújo Carvalho, Peter J. Minnett, Nelson F.F. Ebecken, Luiz Landau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We classify low-backscatter regions observed in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)measurements of the surface of the ocean as either oil slicks or look-alike slicks (radar false targets). Our proposed classification algorithm is based on Linear Discriminant Analyses (LDAs) of RADARSAT-1 measurements (402 scenes off the southeast coast of Brazil from July 2001 to June 2003) and Meteorological-Oceanographic (MetOc) data from other earth observation sensors: Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), Sea-ViewingWide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS), Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT). Oil slicks are sea-surface expressions of exploration and production oil, ship-and orphan-spills. False targets are associated with environmental phenomena, such as biogenic films, algal blooms, upwelling, low wind, or rain cells. Both categories have been interpreted by domain-experts: mineral oil (n = 350; 45.5%) and petroleum free (n = 419; 54.5%). We explore nine size variables (area, perimeter, etc.) and three types of MetOc information (sea surface temperature, chlorophyll-a, and wind speed) that describe the 769 samples analyzed. Seven attribute-domain combinations are tested with three non-linear transformations (none, cube root, log10), with and without MetOc, adding to 39 attribute subdivisions. Classification accuracies are independent of data transformation and improve when selected size attributes are combined with MetOc, leading to overall accuracies of ~80% and sound levels of sensitivity (~90%), specificity (~80%), positive (~80%) and negative (~90%) predictive values. The effectiveness of this data-driven attempt supports further commercial or academic implementation of our LDA algorithm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2078
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Infrared sensor
  • Linear discriminant analysis (LDA)
  • Marine slicks
  • Microwave radar
  • Oil slicks
  • Oil spills
  • Optical remote sensing
  • Satellite image classification and segmentation algorithm
  • Slick look-alikes
  • Wind scatterometer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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