An important step in oil spill response is to assess the character and extent of oil spilled on the water. This information is used by the Incident Command (the people in charge of a spill response) to prioritize response and direct cleanup resources. This aid was created to help you perform efficient assessments and to use standard language to communicate your findings effectively.
View and Print the Job Aid: Open Water Oil Identification Job Aid for Aerial Observation [PDF, 2.5 MB]
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In November 2007, this job aid was updated to include standardized oil slick appearance and structure nomenclature and code. The job aid was most recently updated in July 2012.
The job aid covers these topics:
- Introduction and basic overview of how to visually assess spilled oil.
- Glossary of standard terms used in pollution response.
- Codes you will use to describe oil colors and structure/distribution.
- Chart for visually estimating the percent coverage of spilled oil.
- Thickness and concentration values for each of the oil color codes.
- Checklist for organizing and recording observations of spilled oil.
- Photos showing different types and distributions of oil on water and common response activities, with example text showing how to use standard terminology to describe each scene.
This job aid was originally a joint project of NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) Emergency Response Division (ERD) and the U.S. Coast Guard. This revision was pursued by the NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator (SSC) team, led primarily by John Whitney, NOAA SSC for Alaska. Photos were contributed by NOAA, U.S. Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the oil industry, and Alan Allen of Spiltec, who deserves special acknowledgement for sharing his knowledge and vast experience on how best to observe oil from the air.
More Information about Aerial Observation of Oil
Aerial Observations of Oil at Sea [PDF, 60 KB]: Read this set of recommended procedures, published in 1996, for assessing spilled oil from the air.
ITOPF: Aerial Observation: The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF) provides this presentation on aerial reconnaissance of marine oil spills.
More Information about Job Aids