11 Jun 2021

11 Jun 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ESSD.

Towards a regional high-resolution bathymetry of the North West Shelf of Australia based on Sentinel-2 satellite images, 3D seismic surveys and historical datasets

Ulysse Lebrec1,2, Victorien Paumard1, Michael J. O'Leary1, and Simon C. Lang1 Ulysse Lebrec et al.
  • 1Centre for Energy Geoscience, School of Earth Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth WA 6009, Australia
  • 2Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, 40 St Georges Terrace, Perth, WA, 6000, Australia

Abstract. High-resolution bathymetry is a critical dataset for marine geoscientists. It can be used to characterize the seafloor and its marine habitats, to understand past sedimentary records and even to support the development of offshore engineering projects. Most methods to acquire bathymetry data are costly and can only be practically deployed on relatively small areas. It is therefore critical to develop cost-effective and advanced techniques to produce large-scale bathymetry datasets.

This paper presents an integrated workflow that builds on satellites images and 3D seismic surveys, integrated with historical depth soundings, to generate a regional high-resolution digital elevation model. The method was applied to the southern half of Australia’s North West Shelf and led to the creation of a new high-resolution bathymetry, with a resolution of 10 x 10 m in nearshore areas and 30 x 30 m elsewhere.

The vertical and spatial accuracy of the datasets have been thoroughly assessed using open source Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) and Multi Beam Echo Sounder (MBES) surveys as a reference. The comparison of the datasets indicates that the seismic-derived bathymetry has a vertical accuracy better than 1 m + 2 % of the absolute water depths, while the satellite-derived bathymetry has a depth accuracy better than 1 m + 5 % of the absolute water depths. This dataset constitutes a significant improvement of the pre-existing regional 250 x 250 m grid and will support the onset of research projects on costal morphologies, marine habitats, archaeology, and sedimentology.

All datasets used as inputs are publicly available and the method is fully integrated in Python scripts making it readily applicable elsewhere in Australia and around the world. The workflow as well as the resulting bathymetry have been independently reviewed and approved for release by a technical committee from the AusSeabed Community (Geoscience Australia). The regional digital elevation model as well as the underlying datasets can be accessed at:

Ulysse Lebrec et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-128', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 Jul 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Ulysse Lebrec, 26 Aug 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on essd-2021-128', Robin Beaman, 20 Jul 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Ulysse Lebrec, 26 Aug 2021

Ulysse Lebrec et al.

Data sets

Regional high-resolution bathymetry of the North West Shelf of Australia based on Sentinel-2 satellite images, 3D seismic surveys and historical datasets Lebrec, U., Paumard, V., O'Leary, M. J., and Lang, S.

Ulysse Lebrec et al.


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Short summary
Marine environments are poorly understood in part due to the prohibitive costs of marine surveys. Yet, information about the oceans are recorded constantly by vessel navigation systems or satellite sensors. The research developed a workflow using such datasets to derive high-resolution maps of the seabed. The workflow was applied to the North West Shelf of Australia, over an area of nearly 1,000,000 km2, and led to an improvement of pre-existing seabed maps resolution by up to 800 times.