Other Factors to Consider


To use Web-based satellite images and other data to investigate the ocean near six different harbors.


  • Buoy Data
  • Sea Surface Temperature Images

Global Sea-Surface Temperature

Sea-Surface-Temperature Courtesy NOAA

The Story 

As a risk planner, you must know what to do when problems occur. As the risk planner for a harbor with an oil terminal, you sometimes have a gooey black mess as your problem.

When oil spills happen in your harbor, your first job is to trap as much of the oil as possible. Your main tool for trapping the floating oil are things called booms. For removing the trapped oil you use skimmers. Without booms and skimmers, the wind, tides, and currents will spread the oil until it covers the entire harbor. But what if the spill happens outside your harbor? Would your booms and skimmers be too little or too late?

Maybe yes but maybe no. Nature sometimes can help. For example, evaporation can takes care of some of a spill. And, if the sea is calm, a spill may stay put long enough for you to get to it and clean it up. Today your job is much easier than cleaning up a spill.. Today you have been asked to look at data from the ocean near six different harbors. Your job is to select a harbor on each coast where nature helps the most when it comes to dealing with a spill.


The satellite image above shows near-real-time surface temperature of the oceans of the world. Click on that image to see a larger view. Then try to determine if there is a significant difference in ocean temperature near San Francisco as compared to San Diego. (Remember, warmer water causes faster evaporation.)

Now compare Galveston with Pensacola, and Charleston with Baltimore in the same way.

Click on the map below to find buoys outside all major harbors in the United States. Try to find an active buoy near San Francisco Harbor and one outside San Diego Harbor.

Bouy data map

Gather information on wave height and wave period and decide which harbor has the calmer conditions (calm conditions slow the spread of an oil spill).

Now compare Galveston with Pensacola, and Charleston with Baltimore in the same way.


The National Association of Risk Planners (NARP) is having their annual convention in three months. You have been asked to give a presentation on the results of your study and the technique you used for analyzing oil-spill risk using sea-surface temperature and wave conditions.

Print out the linked proposal form and complete it. Be sure to tell how you used data from the Web. Give examples of where Web data were useful and where they were not.

Copyright 2002 Event-Based Science Project