A common by-product of multibeam surveys is a measure of the backscattered acoustic intensity from the seafloor. These data are of immense interest to geologists and geoscientists since maps of the acoustic backscatter strength can be used to infer physical properties of the sea bottom, such as impedance, roughness and volume inhomogeneity. Before such maps can be created from multibeam acoustic backscatter data, however, two tasks must be performed.

1. The data must be geographically registered using the bathymetric profile collected by the multibeam (which accounts for full orientation and refraction), as opposed to using the traditional flat-seafloor assumption. This allows us to additionally calculate the true grazing angle. 2. The signal intensities must be reduced to as close a measure of the backscatter strength of the seafloor as possible by radiometrically correcting the data on a ping-by-ping basis for variables such as transmission power, beam pattern, receiver gain, and pulse length.

The purpose of this research project is to develop software tools to perform the above corrections for a massive backlog of RESON SeaBat 8101 multibeam data, as collected by the NOAA ship Rainier. While the backscatter logged by the multibeam systems is not of prime importance to NOAA’s hydrographic charting mandate, they recognize the potential value of this data to the work of other sister agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey (who is funding this project). The particular problems encountered with these data are that.

Up to the end of 2001 field season, the backscatter data acquired by this system were collected from dedicated receiver beams, separate from those used for bathymetry. This receive beam is broad in the elevation plane (similar to a sidescan sonar) so that the variation in elevation angle with time must be indirectly inferred from the corresponding bathymetric profile.

As some backscatter data are collected from slant-ranges beyond which bathymetric data are acquired, for that case the imaging geometry must be either inferred using a simple slope model, or derived from neighbouring swaths.

Results of the application of full geometric and radiometric corrections will be presented.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Canadian Hydrographic Conference

Conference Date

May 28 - May 31, 2002

Publisher Place

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Canadian Hydrographic Association

Document Type

Conference Proceeding