An infamous catastrophe imposed on Kuwait's desert environment during the 1990-91 Arabian Gulf War was the formation of oil lakes and oil-contaminated surfaces. Approximately 96% ofthe oilfrom the lakes was recovered and exported; however, the remaining one million barrels of unrecoverable oil is stuck to the bottom of the oil lakebeds. The need to continuously monitor the oil lakes and polluted surfaces is obvious as they might be part of Kuwait's desert for a long time and pose several hazards to the environment. This paper evaluates the usefulness of ADARSAT SAR beam modes and resolutions in distinguishing between the oil lakes and the various contaminated surfaces at the Greater Burgan oil field. In the flat eolian desert environment, the predominantfactor modulating the radar signal is the nature ofthe soil surface, i.e., disturbed versus undisturbed sand sheet, and the distribution of scrubs. RADARSAT fine beam mode images faithfully mapped various surfaces such as oil lakes, tarmats, partially covered oil lakes, reclaimed oil lakes, contaminated surfaces, and disturbed surfacesfrom cleanup activities. These span low signals, intermediate gray tones and bright areas. Oil lakes with very weak backscattering appear as near circular or rectangular features in the radar images. The three RADARSATstandard beam mode images (SI, S4, and S7) acquired within a period of 14 days in November 1996 were quite similar, with only subtle differences. The S4 image, however, was most sensitive to surface roughness variations and vegetation distribution. The change detection image between RADARSAT standard beam mode low incidence image (Sl) and any of the high incidence images (S4 and S7) essentially mapped the difference between the fenced/protected oil field area with more disturbed surface and vegetation, and unprotected areas that are subject to overgrazing and land degradation.
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