The impact of floods and storms on the acoustic reflectivity of the inner continental shelf: A modeling assessment

Journal Article

Flood deposition and storm reworking of sediments on the inner shelf can change the mixture of grain sizes on the seabed and thus its porosity, bulk density, bulk compressional velocity and reflectivity. Whether these changes are significant enough to be detectable by repeat sub-bottom sonar surveys, however, is uncertain. Here the question is addressed through numerical modeling. Episodic flooding of a large versus small river over the course of a century are modeled with HYDROTREND using the drainage basin characteristics of the Po and Pescara Rivers (respectively). A similarly long stochastic record of storms offshore of both rivers is simulated from the statistics of a long-term mooring recording of waves in the western Adriatic Sea. These time series are then input to the stratigraphic model SEDFLUX2D, which simulates flood deposition and storm reworking on the inner shelf beyond the river mouths. Finally, annual changes in seabed reflectivity across these shelf regions are computed from bulk densities output by SEDFLUX2D and compressional sound speeds computed from mean seafloor grain size using the analytical model of Buckingham [1997. Theory of acoustic attenuation, dispersion, and pulse propagation in unconsolidated granular materials including marine sediments. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 102, 2579-2596; 1998. Theory of compressional and shear waves in fluidlike marine sediments. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 103, 288-299; 2000. Wave propagation, stress relaxation, and grain-tograin shearing in saturated, unconsolidated marine sediments. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 108, 2796-2815]. The modeling predicts reflectivities that change from <12 dB for sands on the innermost shelf to >9 dB for muds farther offshore, values that agree with reflectivity measurements for these sediment types. On local scales of ∼100 m, however, maximum changes in reflectivity are <0.5 dB. So are most annual changes in reflectivity over all water depths modeled (i.e., 0-35 m). Given that signal differences need to be ≥2-3 dB to be resolved, the results suggest that grain-size induced changes in reflectivity caused by floods and storms will rarely be detectable by most current sub-bottom sonars. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pratson, LF; Hutton, EWH; Kettner, AJ; Syvitski, JPM; Hill, PS; George, DA; Milligan, TG

Published Date

  • 2007

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 3-4

Start / End Page

  • 542 - 559

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0278-4343

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.csr.2005.12.018