These remotely sensed, geographically referenced elevation measurements of Lidar-derived coastal topography were produced as a collaborative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Florida Integrated Science Center (FISC), St. Petersburg, FL and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Wallops Flight Facility, VA. One objective of this research is to create techniques to survey areas for the purposes of geomorphic change studies following major storm events. The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program's National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards project is a multi-year undertaking to identify and quantify the vulnerability of U.S. shorelines to coastal change hazards such as effects of severe storms, sea-level rise, and shoreline erosion and retreat. Airborne Lidar surveys conducted during periods of calm weather are compared to surveys collected following extreme storms in order to quantify the resulting coastal change. Other applications of high-resolution topography include habitat mapping, ecological monitoring, volumetric change detection, and event assessment.
The purpose of this project is to provide highly detailed and accurate datasets of the northern Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, acquired on September 19, 2004, immediately following Hurricane Ivan. The datasets are made available for use as a management tool to research scientists and natural resource managers. An innovative airborne Lidar instrument originally developed at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, and known as the Experimental Airborne Advanced Research Lidar (EAARL), was used during data acquisition. The EAARL system is a raster-scanning, waveform-resolving, green-wavelength (532 nanometer) Lidar designed to map near-shore bathymetry, topography, and vegetation structure simultaneously. The EAARL sensor suite includes the raster-scanning, water-penetrating full-waveform adaptive Lidar, a down-looking RGB (red-green-blue) digital camera, a high-resolution multi-spectral color infrared (CIR) camera, two precision dual-frequency kinematic carrier-phase GPS receivers and an integrated miniature digital inertial measurement unit which provide for sub-meter georeferencing of each laser sample. The nominal EAARL platform is a twin-engine Cessna 310 aircraft, but the instrument may be deployed on a range of light aircraft. A single pilot, a Lidar operator, and a data analyst constitute the crew for most survey operations. This sensor has the potential to make significant contributions in measuring sub-aerial and submarine coastal topography within cross-environmental surveys.
Elevation measurements were collected over the survey area using the EAARL system on September 19, 2004. The survey resulted in the acquisition of 3.2 gigabytes of data. The data were processed using the Airborne Lidar Processing System (ALPS), a custom-built processing system developed in a NASA-USGS collaboration. ALPS supports the exploration and processing of Lidar data in an interactive or batch mode. Modules for pre-survey flight line definition, flight path plotting, Lidar raster and waveform investigation, and digital camera image playback have been developed. Processing algorithms have been developed to extract the range to the first and last significant return within each waveform. ALPS is routinely used to create maps that represent submerged or sub-aerial topography. Specialized filtering algorithms have been implemented to determine the 'bare earth' under vegetation from a point cloud of 'last return' elevations.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
EAARL Coastal Topography - Northern Gulf of Mexico