Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Small-scale sediment transport patterns and bedform morphodynamics: New insights from high resolution multibeam bathymetry

September 1, 2011

New multibeam echosounder and processing technologies yield sub-meter-scale bathymetric resolution, revealing striking details of bedform morphology that are shaped by complex boundary-layer flow dynamics at a range of spatial and temporal scales. An inertially aided post processed kinematic (IAPPK) technique generates a smoothed best estimate trajectory (SBET) solution to tie the vessel motion-related effects of each sounding directly to the ellipsoid, significantly reducing artifacts commonly found in multibeam data, increasing point density, and sharpening seafloor features. The new technique was applied to a large bedform field in 20–30 m water depths in central San Francisco Bay, California (USA), revealing bedforms that suggest boundary-layer flow deflection by the crests where 12-m-wavelength, 0.2-m-amplitude bedforms are superimposed on 60-m-wavelength, 1-m-amplitude bedforms, with crests that often were strongly oblique (approaching 90°) to the larger features on the lee side, and near-parallel on the stoss side. During one survey in April 2008, superimposed bedform crests were continuous between the crests of the larger features, indicating that flow detachment in the lee of the larger bedforms is not always a dominant process. Assessment of bedform crest peakedness, asymmetry, and small-scale bedform evolution between surveys indicates the impact of different flow regimes on the entire bedform field. This paper presents unique fine-scale imagery of compound and superimposed bedforms, which is used to (1) assess the physical forcing and evolution of a bedform field in San Francisco Bay, and (2) in conjunction with numerical modeling, gain a better fundamental understanding of boundary-layer flow dynamics that result in the observed superimposed bedform orientation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Small-scale sediment transport patterns and bedform morphodynamics: New insights from high resolution multibeam bathymetry
DOI 10.1007/s00367-011-0227-1
Authors Patrick L. Barnard, Li H. Erikson, Rikk G. Kvitek
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geo-Marine Letters
Series Number
Index ID 70042961
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center