NASA Releases Images of Beaches Tarred from Pipeline Oil Spill in May

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NASA/JPL

NASA has released images showing a map of coastal areas affected by an oil spill that occurred in May north of Santa Barbara, prompting several beach closures.

NASA used a remote sensing technology to map tar on a beach, which was previously thought impossible. After the spill, NASA deployed an aircraft carrying a unique airborne instrument developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena to study the spill and test the ability of imaging spectroscopy.

NASA said one factor that made its effort unique was the surface data collected for remote sensing maps in the future. NASA will compare its surface map with the remote sensing maps.

The tar was a result of an oil pipeline that ruptured and spilled an estimated 105,000 barrels of crude oil into Refugio State Beach and about 21,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, according to NASA.

NASA said it is working to validate the approach of using remote sensing, which uses the power of imaging spectroscopy, to be prepared in the event of another major oil spill.

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