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Seafloor geodesy from repeated sidescan sonar surveys

Regional bathymetry of the CNTL15RR cruise

Regional bathymetry of the CNTL15RR cruise.

TitleSeafloor geodesy from repeated sidescan sonar surveys
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsDeSanto J.B, Sandwell DT, Chadwell C.D
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth
Date Published2016/07
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number2169-9313
Accession NumberWOS:000381627500001
Keywordsdeformation; digital image correlation; displacement; eruption; Juan de Fuca Ridge; multibeam sonar; ridge; seafloor geodesy; tohoku-oki earthquake; trench

Accurate seafloor geodetic methods are critical to the study of marine natural hazards such as megathrust earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes. We propose digital image correlation of repeated shipboard sidescan sonar surveys as a measurement of seafloor deformation. We test this method using multibeam surveys collected in two locales: 2500m deep lightly sedimented seafloor on the flank of a spreading ridge and 4300m deep heavily sedimented seafloor far from any plate boundary. Correlation of these surveys are able to recover synthetic displacements in the across-track (range) direction accurate to within 1m and in the along-track (azimuth) direction accurate to within 1-10m. We attribute these accuracies to the inherent resolution of sidescan data being better in the range dimension than the azimuth dimension. These measurements are primarily limited by the accuracy of the ship navigation. Dual-frequency GPS units are accurate to approximate to 10cm, but single-frequency GPS units drift on the order of 1m/h and are insufficient for geodetic application.


We measure simulated seafloor displacement using repeated sidescan sonar surveys. From a platform height of 3–4 km and a ship speed of 0.5–3.5 knots, we are able to measure displacements accurate to tens of meters in the along-track (azimuth) direction and meters in the across-track (range) direction, an improvement over the previous Fujiwara et al. [2011] study of approximately 1 order of magnitude.

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