Shallow-water imaging multibeam sonars: A new tool for investigating seafloor processes in the coastal zone and on the continental shelf

Academic Article


  • When properly processed, high frequency multibeam sonar data can provide a view of seafloor geology and geomorphology at resolutions of as little as a few decimetres. Specific applications include quantitative estimation of sediment transport rates in large-scale sediment waves, volume effects of iceberg scouring, extent and style of seafloor mass-wasting and delineation of structural trends in bedrock. In addition, the imagery potentially provides a means of quantitative classification of seafloor lithology, allowing sedimentologists the ability to examine spatial distributions of seabed sediment type without resorting to subjective estimation or prohibitively expensive bottom-sampling programs. Using Simrad EM100 and EM1000 sonars as an example, this paper illustrates the nature and scale of possible artifacts, the necessary post-processing steps and shows specific applications of these sonars.
  • Authors

  • Hughes Clarke, John
  • Clarke, JEH
  • Mayer, Larry
  • Wells, DE
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 1996
  • Has Subject Area


  • multibeam
  • seabed backscatter
  • sediment classification
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 607
  • End Page

  • 629
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 6