March 2022 OES Beacon

Ocean Remote Sensing Technology Committee

Ferdinando Nunziata, Paolo de Matthaeis, René Garello

The Ocean Remote Sensing TC is now led by Ferdinando Nunziata, Università di Napoli Parthenope, Napoli, Italy, and Co-chaired by Paolo de Matthaeis, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA, and René Garello, IMT Atlantique, Brést, France.

Figure 1 – Screenshot of Prof. Ruf webinar

To better disseminate TC activities, a new webpage has been prepared and will soon be online at The pandemic has limited our social contacts and travels, but we used this opportunity to offer virtual scientific events. In particular, the OES Remote Sensing TC and the OE Italy Chapter jointly organized two webinars (via Google Meet platform) to stimulate the discussion on two hot topics related to microwave remote sensing of ocean surface. Both the speakers agreed to have their speeches recorded and publicly available to a broader audience through the OES YouTube channel[1].

The first webinar, entitled “Image Ocean Microplastic Dynamics with Spaceborne Radar” was presented by Prof. Christopher Ruf, from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, USA, on January 19, 2022, at 3.30 CET.

Prof. Ruf (Fellow, IEEE) has been a recipient of several international awards and is Principal Investigator of the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) NASA Earth Venture Mission. His research interests include GNSS-Reflectometry remote sensing, microwave radiometry, atmosphere and ocean geophysical retrieval algorithm development, and sensor technology development.

The webinar focused on a new approach to the imaging of microplastics from space. Spaceborne radar measurements of ocean surface roughness are used to infer the reduction in responsiveness to wind-driven roughening caused by the presence of surfactant tracers of the microplastics. On a global scale over monthly time scales, time-lapse images derived from the satellite radar observations reveal seasonal changes in the microplastic mass density within the major ocean basin gyres, which appear to be related to seasonal changes in ocean circulation patterns. On smaller spatial and temporal scales, weekly time-lapse images near the mouth of major rivers reveal episodic bursts of microplastic outflow from the river into the sea. The physical relationship between the presence of surfactants and the suppression of ocean surface roughening caused by winds has been investigated via a series of controlled wave tank experiments. Varying concentrations of surfactants are introduced onto the water surface, near-surface winds are generated in a controlled manner with variable speeds, and the surface roughness is measured directly. The results are found to be consistent with the empirical relationship found from the satellite measurements.

The second webinar, entitled “The effect of oil spills on the marine environment and coastal population – a quantitative interdisciplinary approach” was presented by Dr. Igal Berenshtein, Rosenstiel from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) of the University of Miami, USA, on February 3, 2022, at 16:00 CET.

Figure 2 – Screenshot of Prof. Berenshtein webinar

Dr Berenshtein is a quantitative marine ecologist, studying complex interactions in the ocean combining advanced modelling techniques, data science, and empirical field and laboratory studies to tackle fundamental scientific and environmental questions concerning the marine environment. Dr. Berenshtein is expected to start an Assistant professorship position at the Department of Marine Biology, at the University of Haifa, Israel, in summer 2022.

The webinar focused on quantitative spatio-temporally explicit frameworks linking visible oil slicks and in-situ toxic oil concentrations related to the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, as well as quantitative frameworks linking possible oil spills, fisheries closures, fishing revenue loss, and social vulnerability. In the current era of rapid deterioration of our marine ecosystems, such research can increase the understanding of marine ecosystems, and may support effective management of marine resources.

Both webinars were advertised via eNotice and through the OE YP delegate and the Italy Section YP delegate. They were attended by approximately 25 scholars with a good level of interaction and several questions asked by the audience.