Acoustic backscatter of the 1995 flood deposit on the Eel shelf
Acoustic swath mapping and sediment box coring conducted on the continental shelf near the mouth of the Eel River revealed regional variations in acoustic backscatter that can be related to the shelf sedimentology. The acoustic-backscatter variations observed on the shelf were unusually narrow compared to the response of similar sediment types documented in other areas. However, the acoustic data revealed four principal bottom types on the shelf that can be related to sedimentologic differences observed in cores. The four areas are: (1) low acoustic backscatter associated with the nearshore-sand facies and the prodelta terraces of the Eel and Mad rivers, composed of fine sands and coarse silts with low porosity; (2) high acoustic backscatter associated with fine silts characterized by high porosity and deposited by the 1995 flood of the Eel River; (3) intermediate acoustic backscatter in the outer-shelf muds, where clayey silts are accumulating and the 1995 flood apparently had limited direct effect; and (4) intermediate acoustic backscatter near the fringes of the 1995 flood deposits and in areas where the flood sediments were more disrupted by post-depositional processes. The highest acoustic backscatter was identified in areas where the 1995 flood sediments remained relatively intact and near the shelf surface into the summer of 1995. Cores collected from these areas contained wavy or lenticular bedding. The rapid deposition of the high-porosity muddy layers results in better preservation of incorporated ripple forms than in areas less directly impacted by the flood deposit. The high-porosity muddy layers allow acoustic penetration into the sediments and result in greater acoustic backscatter from incorporated roughness elements.