Bay Area Technology Pinpoints Gulf Oil Flow

Radar created in the Bay Area making a difference in BP Oil Disaster

By Vicky Nguyen
|  Tuesday, May 4, 2010  |  Updated 10:08 AM PDT
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Silicon Valley's Role in the Gulf Oil Cleanup

NASA

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible. The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana.

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Silicon Valley's Role in the Gulf Oil Cleanup

Scientists using Codar radar technology can map where the currents in the Gulf of Mexico are pushing the oil gushing from an exploded rig.
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The antenna and computer mapping system developed by Mountain View-based Codar is being used to create maps of the ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico. The maps show where the millions of gallons of oil are moving, so that crews can target their clean up operations in the largest leak of its kind in U.S. history.

The Codar Sea Sonde radar uses radio waves to detect the speed of ocean currents over time. That data is then used to create models of maps with hundreds of arrows with each arrow marking a data point rich with information about the velocity and direction of that ocean current.

"What you see are patches [of oil]. You don't know how fast they're going." Codar founder Don Barrick said. "What this allows you to do is measure drectly the velocity of the oil and that tells you where its going in the future and where to go clean up tomorrow morning."

Scientists in the Tiburon lab are monitoring what's happening in the Gulf in real time, using three Codar radars. More could be installed along the Florida coastline soon because wind currents appear to be moving the oil toward the Sunshine State.

Barrick says it's extremely rewarding to know the technology he invented is being used to help mitigage the damage from this massive leak.

The same radar systems were used during the 2007 Cosco Busan spill in the San Francisco Bay.

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