Natural seepage of methane into the oceans is considerable, and plays a role in the global carbon cycle. Estimating the amount of this greenhouse gas entering the water column is important in order to understand their environmental impact. In addition, leakage from man-made structures such as gas pipelines may have environmental and economical consequences and should be promptly detected. Split beam echo sounders (SBES) detect hydroacoustic plumes due to the significant contrast in acoustic impedance between water and free gas. SBES are also powerful tools for plume characterization, with the ability to provide absolute acoustic measurements, estimate bubble trajectories, and capture the frequency dependent response of bubbles. However, under challenging conditions such as deep water and considerable background noise, it can be difficult to detect the presence of gas seepage from the acoustic imagery alone. The spatial coherence of the wavefield measured across the split beam sectors, quantified by the coherence factor (CF), is a computationally simple, easily available quantity which complements the acoustic imagery and may ease the ability to automatically or visually detect bubbles in the water column. We demonstrate the benefits of CF processing using SBES data from the Hudson Canyon, acquired using the Simrad EK80 SBES. We observe that hydroacoustic plumes appear more clearly defined and are easier to detect in the CF imagery than in the acoustic backscatter images.
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