Airborne laser bathymetric (ALB) systems rapidly acquire large, high-quality datasets via variable swath widths that are independent of water depth. Laser bathymetric survey tools have applicability in clear coastal (Case II) waters down to −70 meters depth. Deployed along the southeast Florida (Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties) coast, an advanced ALB system provided a continuous dataset for 160 kilometers of coast from onshore to 6 kilometers offshore. Digital terrain models developed from this high-density bathymetric data permitted recognition of numerous seafloor features and bathymetric patterns from different image formats. Bathymetric analysis of the 600-km2 survey area on the narrow continental shelf shows inherited lithologic features that are partly covered by surficial sediments. Primary parabathic provinces include: (1) nearshore rocky zones dominated by the Anastasia Formation, (2) coral-algal reef systems (Florida Reef Tract [FRT]), and (3) marine terraces. Secondary sedimentary subprovinces include shoreface sands, inter-reefal sedimentary infills (coral rubble in basal sequences and near reef gaps), and finer-grained materials seaward of the FRT. Tertiary topographic features include: (1) longshore bar and trough systems, shoals, sand sheets, and diabathic channels; (2) reef crests and ledges, forereef spurs and grooves, sediment ramps in large reef gaps, and incised paleo-river channels; and (3) drowned karst topography. Hierarchical organization of these bathymetric features is now possible for the first time because of the increased accuracy and density of bathymetric data obtained by ALB systems.
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Vol. 2005 • No. 213