Investigations into Ebb Tidal Fronts Using in Situ Acoustic Backscatter and Optical Satellite Imagery
Monday, 15 December 2014
The Office of Naval Research sponsored the Riverine and Estuarine Transport (RIVET) experiment during May 2012 at New River Inlet, North Carolina, in an effort to better understand the complex wave-current-wind interactions typical of tidal inlets. Over the course of a month, this highly sheared zone was intensely sampled with an array of Eulerian and Lagrangian instruments, in part, as a means of creating a synoptic, three-dimensional data set for validating various satellite remote sensing platforms. A component of this project was to deploy the Surface Physics Experimental Catamaran (SPEC), which is a mobile vessel designed specifically for collecting detailed meteorological and oceanographic data in coastal waters. Among its suite of instruments, SPEC was outfitted with a pair of acoustic doppler velocimeters (ADV), an acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP), and an optical backscatter sensor (OBS). This instrument package allowed for high resolution mapping of the acoustic signature of the ebb tidal plume and the sub-surface, two-dimensional flow field. On May 8th, at 18:40 UTC, a panchromatic satellite image with a 0.6 m resolution, covering 122 km2, was taken of the New River Inlet Estuary and the inner shelf waters just off-shore. Numerous interesting features are visible in the image, such as the river outflow plume, surface streaks and slicks, a complex wave-field, and a remnant frontal edge from the past ebb tide. Interpretation of the surface features in these types of optical images remains a significant challenge and we have used data collected by SPEC immediately after the image acquisition to help illuminate the processes underlying these signatures.