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Comparing methods used by the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program for deriving shoreline position from lidar data

August 23, 2018

The U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program uses three methods to derive a datum-based, mean high water shoreline on open-ocean coasts from light detection and ranging (lidar) elevation surveys. This work compared the shorelines produced by the three methods for two different surveys: one survey with simple beach morphology, and one survey with complex beach morphology. For the survey with simple beach morphology, the three methods gave very similar results. The mean differences were less than 0.1 meter, and the root mean square differences were all less than 1.0 meter. For the survey of a beach with complex morphology, the quality control used in the Profile method and Smoothed Contour/Manual Hybrid method produced cleaner shorelines than the Grid method. Only the Profile method can extrapolate if there is no data around mean high water. The Grid and Profile methods produce a point by point estimate of uncertainty which is needed for some applications. Only the Contour method can be easily transferred to external users.