Using airborne LIDAR to measure tides and river slope
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The spatial variability of tides and the tidally-averaged water-level is often poorly resolved in shallow waters, despite its importance in validating models and interpreting dynamics. In this contribution we explore using airborne LIDAR to remotely observe tides and along-river slope in the Columbia River estuary (CRE). Using an airplane equipped with LIDAR, differential GPS, and an infra-red camera, we flew 8 longitudinal transects over a 50km stretch of the CRE over a 14 hour period in June 2013. After correcting for airplane elevation, pitch and roll and median filtering over 1km blocks, a spatially-resolved data set of relative water level was generated. Results show the tide (amplitude 2m) propagating upstream at the expected phase velocity. A sinusoid with 2 periods (12.4 and 24 hours) was next fit to data to produce a smooth tide and extract the mean slope. Comparison with 4 tide gauges indicates first order agreement with measured tides (rms error 0.1m), and confirms that a substantial sub-tidal gradient exists in the CRE. This proof-of-concept experiment indicates that remote sensing of tides in coastal areas is feasible, with possible applications such as improving bathymetric surveys or inferring water depths.