Digital image processing techniques were applied to Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) data acquired between 1987 and 1995 to map the oil lakes, tarmats, and soot in the Greater Burgan oil field, Kuwait. The oil lakes were created during the 1991 Arabian Gulf War when several producing oil wells in Kuwait were set ablaze and others damaged to allow oil to gush uncontrollably. The images were subjected to a large high-pass filter with 50% addback of the original image. The filtered results were then edge enhanced to sharpen the local textural information. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was used to map the vegetation distribution in the TM data acquired in the spring. The TM imagery analysis indicated that a majority of the contaminated areas surrounding the oil lakes were gradually recovering in terms of vegetation growth. The surficial coverage of the oil lakes calculated from the 1995 TM digital image data was 38.93 km2. Of their total, 35.45 km2, or over 90% of the oil lakes were in the Greater Burgan oil field. The 20% decrease in the original total area was due to the shrinkage in volume and area from the recovery process, sand encroachment, and the drying of shallow parts with time. Even though some of the oil lake beds are covered by a veneer of sand and are not seen on satellite images, they still pose hazards to the environment.
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