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Sources and Impacts of Bottom Slope Uncertainty on Estimation of Seafloor Backscatter from Swath Sonars

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA
Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
Geosciences 2019, 9(4), 183;
Received: 29 March 2019 / Revised: 14 April 2019 / Accepted: 15 April 2019 / Published: 20 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geological Seafloor Mapping)
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Seafloor backscatter data from multibeam echosounders are now widely used in seafloor characterization studies. Accurate and repeatable measurements are essential for advancing the success of these techniques. This paper explores the impact of uncertainty in our knowledge of the local seafloor slope on the overall accuracy of the backscatter measurement. Amongst the various sources of slope uncertainty studied, the impact of bathymetric uncertainty and scale were identified as the major sources of slope uncertainty. The bottom slope affects two important corrections needed for estimating seafloor backscatter: (1) The insonified area and; (2) the seafloor incidence angle. The impacts of these slope-related uncertainty sources were quantified for a shallow water multibeam survey. The results show that the most significant uncertainty in backscatter data arises when seafloor slope is not accounted for or when low-resolution bathymetry is used to estimate seafloor slope. This effect is enhanced in rough seafloors. A standard method of seafloor slope correction is proposed to achieve repeatable and accurate backscatter results. Additionally, a standard data package, including metadata describing the slope corrections applied, needs to accompany backscatter results and should include details of the slope estimation method and resolution of the bathymetry used. View Full-Text
Keywords: Swath mapping; seafloor incidence angle; seafloor slope; uncertainty Swath mapping; seafloor incidence angle; seafloor slope; uncertainty

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Malik, M. Sources and Impacts of Bottom Slope Uncertainty on Estimation of Seafloor Backscatter from Swath Sonars. Geosciences 2019, 9, 183.

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