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Petroleum, NASA and a 21st Century Oil Spill Response
Petroleum, NASA and a 21st Century Oil Spill Response

Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Time: 5:00pm
Location: Caltech Beckman Institute Auditorium
Speaker: Ira Leifer

Caltech Management Association


Ira Leifer, an associate researcher at the Marine Sciences Institute at UC Santa Barbara, will present talks Thursday, Oct. 21 from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 321 auditorium and from 5 to 6:15 p.m. in Caltech’s Beckman Institute Auditorium.

The Deepwater Horizon/Macondo oil well accident released an unprecedented quantity of oil into the northern Gulf of Mexico marine and littoral environment (~ 1 billion liters).

NASA responded to this disaster by mobilizing the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) instrument as well as other airborne and spaceborne assets. Analysis of the captured data allowed mapping of the complex coastal wetlands ecosystem as it existed before the oil inundation. In addition, new AVIRIS flights are providing post-inundation data. A novel approach to analyzing this data helped bound the estimates of the Macondo well oil release by allowing the measurement of oil-slick thickness. Leifer discusses this approach, which uses the U.S. Geological Survey–developed "Tetracorder" algorithm and quantifies the oil-to-water ratio and the fractional oil coverage.

Starting with astronomy (SUNY Stony Brook, B.S.), Leifer shifted to planetary atmospheres (M.S.) at the University of Michigan, and then atmospheric chemistry at Georgia Tech, with a thesis on bubble-mediated air–sea gas exchange. He continued bubble air–sea research in Ireland at the University College, Galway. Coming to UC Santa Barbara, Leifer continued his research trend of sinking lower and lower by focusing on gas bubbles from the seabed using sonar, video and other techniques. His research reached new depths in the study of subsurface geologic structures and their relationship to seepage. Then, a developing interest in atmospheric methane observations by in-situ techniques and by imaging spectroscopy saved him from possibly sinking into the mantle. Recently, he has participated in the Technical Flow Rate Team, was a co-investigator on the first NASA response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and organized the Deep Spill 2 Study Project.

These events are free. All members of the campus and JPL communities and retirees are welcome. Because of security requirements, campus personnel and JPL/campus guests must be processed through JPL Visitor Control and escorted by a JPL employee or resident affiliate for access to the Flight Projects Center auditorium.

For more information, e-mail cma.announce@jpl.nasa.gov or call Michael Eastwood at 818-354-9273.

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