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A laser line scan system was used to characterize the high-resolution spatial variability and temporal evolution of the sea floor as a function of environmental conditions for a small section of the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico during a period of nine days. High-resolution bathymetric profiles (<1 mm) covering about two sand ripple periods on the sea floor were acquired over a one-dimensional transect 1.35 m in length. The system was also used to measure reflectance and to produce three-dimensional bottom maps of the test area. Over the nine-day period, the sand ripple peak-to-trough height was observed to decrease slowly from about 2.5 cm to about 2.0 cm. Similar gradual changes we also observed in the time-evolution of bottom profile correlations and of the bottom roughness spectra. However, when smaller sections were examined individually, the time-evolution of the profile correlation was observed to vary acutely and in a transitory manner in some regions but not in others, and without preference for crests or troughs. In general, bottom roughness for spatial frequencies greater than 0.044 cycles/cm completely decorrelated within 20-30 h. However, this gradual trend was also marked by acute and transitory changes in bottom topography believed to be primarily from fish feeding on epibenthic prey.
Date of Publication: Jul 2002