Quantitative characterization of abyssal seafloor with transit multibeam backscatter data

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:00 PM
Robert A Pockalny, Univ Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, United States and Vicki Lynn Ferrini, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Marine Geology and Geophysics, Palisades, NY, United States
The expanding volume of deep-water multibeam echosounder data provides emerging opportunities for the improved characterization of the abyssal seafloor. Nearly 500 cruises criss-cross the oceans with modern wide-swath multibeam systems, and these cruise tracks have imaged a variety of morphologic, tectonic and magmatic environments. The qualitative analysis of the seafloor backscatter data strongly suggests a local and regional variability that correlates with sediment thickness, sediment type and/or depositional environment. We present our initial attempts to develop a method that quantifies this observed seafloor backscatter variability and to explore the causes and potential implications of this variability. Our approach is rooted in the Angular Range Analysis methodology, which utilizes changes in backscatter amplitude observed as a function of grazing angle, to characterize the seafloor. The primary difference in our approach is that we do not invert for geo-acoustical parameters, but rather explores empirical relationships between geological observations and stacked slope and y-intercept values. In addition, we also include the mean and the variance of detrended backscatter measurements. Our initial results indicate intriguing relationships between backscatter parameters and the CaCO3 content of surface sediments. Seafloor regions reported to have high manganese nodule concentrations also tend to have characteristic trends in backscatter parameters. We will present these regional correlations as well as some preliminary statistical analyses of the backscatter parameters and key environmental factors.