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Frontiers in seafloor mapping and visualization

TitleFrontiers in seafloor mapping and visualization
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsMayer, LA
JournalMar. Geophys. Res.Mar. Geophys. Res.Mar. Geophys. Res.
Keywords3-D visualization, bathymetry, gridding, mapping, satellite, seafloor mapping, world ocean floor, multibeam sonar, ocean mapping, future developments, seafloor characterization, interactive

Over the past few years there have been remarkable and concomitant advances in sonar technology, positioning capabilities, and
computer processing power that have revolutionized the mapping, imaging and exploration of the seafloor. Future developments must
involve all aspects of the ‘‘seafloor mapping system,’’ including, sonars, ancillary sensors (motion sensors, positioning systems, and
sound speed sensors), platforms upon which they are mounted, and the products that are produced. Current trends in sonar development
involve the use of innovative new transducer materials and the application of sophisticated processing techniques including
focusing algorithms that dynamically compensate for the curvature of the wavefront in the nearfield and thus allow narrower beam
widths (higher lateral resolution) at close ranges . Future developments will involve ‘‘hybrid’’, phase-comparison/beam-forming sonars,
the development of broad-band ‘‘chirp’’ multibeam sonars, and perhaps synthetic aperture multibeam sonars. The inability to monitor
the fine-scale spatial and temporal variability of the sound speed structure of the water column is often a limiting factor in the
production of accurate maps of the seafloor; improvements in this area will involve continuous monitoring devices as well as improved
ocean models and perhaps tomography. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV’s) and particularly Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
(AUV’s) will become more important as platforms for seafloor mapping systems. There will also be great changes in the products
produced from seafloor mapping and the processing necessary to create them. New processing algorithms are being developed that take
advantage of the density of multibeam sonar data and use statistically robust techniques to ‘‘clean’’ massive data sets very rapidly. A
range of approaches are being explored to use multibeam sonar bathymetry and imagery to extract quantitative information about
seafloor properties, including those relevant to fisheries habitat. The density of these data also enable the use of interactive 3-D
visualization and exploration tools specifically designed to facilitate the interpretation and analysis of very large, complex, multicomponent
spatial data sets. If properly georeferenced and treated, these complex data sets can be presented in a natural and intuitive
manner that allows the simple integration and fusion of multiple components without compromise to the quantitative aspects of the
data and opens up new worlds of interactive exploration to a multitude of users.

Short TitleMarine Geophysical ResearchMarine Geophysical Researches
Alternate JournalMarine Geophysical Researches