Remote sensing assessment of oil lakes and oil-polluted surfaces at the Greater Burgan oil field, Kuwait

Andy Yaw Kwarteng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


A heinous catastrophe imposed on Kuwait's desert environment during the 1990 to 1991 Arabian Gulf War was the formation of oil lakes and oil-contaminated surfaces. Presently, the affected areas consist of oil lakes, thick light and disintegrated tarmats, black soil and vegetation. In this study, Landsat TM, Spot, colour aerial photographs and IRS-1D digital image data acquired between 1989 and 1998 were used to monitor the spatial and temporal changes of the oil lakes and polluted surfaces at the Greater Burgan oil field. The use of multisensor datasets provided the opportunity to observe the polluted areas in different wavelengths, look angles and resolutions. The images were digitally enhanced to optimize the visual outlook and improve the information content. The data documented the gradual disappearance of smaller oil lakes and soot/black soil from the surface with time. Even though some of the contaminants were obscured by sand and vegetation and not readily observed on the surface or from satellite images, the harmful chemicals still remain in the soil. Some of the contaminated areas displayed a remarkable ability to support vegetation growth during the higher than average rainfall that occurred between 1992 to 1998. The total area of oil lakes calculated from an IRS-1D panchromatic image acquired on 16 February 1998, using supervised classification applied separately to different parts, was 24.13 km2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-47
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Arabian Gulf War
  • Burgan oil field
  • Digital image processing
  • Environment monitoring
  • Environmental assessment
  • IRS
  • Kuwait
  • Landsat TM
  • Oil contaminated surfaces
  • Oil lakes
  • Remote sensing
  • SPOT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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