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Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
The Gulf of Mexico was speckled and streaked with small clouds on July 20, 2010, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image. Between the clouds, however, a silvery-gray streak of oil remained visible offshore of the Mississippi River Delta. The tan-colored waters around the river delta are full of sediment.
In photo-like images such as this one, oil is most visible when it is located in the sunglint part of the scene—the place where the mirror-like reflection of the Sun off the water gets blurred into a wide bright strip by small waves and ripples.