PETROBRAS (the Brazilian national oil company) built a pipeline to transport crude oil from the Urucu River region to a terminal in the vicinities of Coari, a city located in the right margin of the Solimoes River. The oil is then shipped by tankers to another terminal in Manaus, capital city of the Amazonas state. At the city of Coari, changes in water level between dry and wet seasons reach up to 14 meters. This strong seasonal character of the Amazonian climate gives rise to four distinct scenarios in the annual hydrological cycle: low water, high water, receding water, and rising water. These scenarios constitute the main reference for the definition of oil spill response planning in the region, since flooded forests and flooded vegetation are the most sensitive fluvial environments to oil spills. This study focuses on improving information about oil spill environmental sensitivity in Western Amazon by using 3D visualization techniques to help the analysis and interpretation of remote sensing and digital topographic data, as follows: (a) 1995 low flood and 1996 high flood JERS-1 SAR mosaics, band LHH, 100m pixel; (b) 2000 low flood and 2001 high flood RADARSAT-1 W1 images, band CHH, 30m pixel; (c) 2002 high flood airborne SAR images from the SIVAM project (System for Surveillance of the Amazon), band LHH, 3m pixel and band XHH, 6m pixel; (d) GTOPO30 digital elevation model, 30' resolution; (e) Digital elevation model derived from topographic information acquired during seismic surveys, 25m resolution; (f) panoramic views obtained from low altitude helicopter flights. The methodology applied includes image processing, cartographic conversion and generation of value-added product using 3D visualization. A semivariogram textural classification was applied to the SAR images in order to identify areas of flooded forest and flooded vegetation. The digital elevation models were color shaded to highlight subtle topographic features. Both datasets were then converted to the same cartographic projection and inserted into the Fledermaus 3D visualization environment. 3D visualization proved to be an important aid in understanding the spatial distribution pattern of the environmentally sensitive vegetation cover. The dynamics of the hydrological cycle was depicted in a basin-wide scale, revealing new geomorphic information relevant to assess the environmental risk of oil spills. Results demonstrate that pipelines constitute an environmentally saver option for oil transportation in the region when compared to fluvial tanker routes.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

EOS Transactions, American Geophysical Union


Fall Meeting, Supplement

Conference Date

Dec 6 - Dec 10, 2002

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, USA


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type