Mapping of shifting tidal estuaries to support inshore rescue

McGrath, Ciara N. and Clark, Ruaridh A. and Ilioudis, Christos and Gibbons, Gwilym and McKee, David and Clemente, Carmine and Macdonald, Malcolm (2020) Mapping of shifting tidal estuaries to support inshore rescue. Proceedings of SPIE, 11529. 1152903. ISSN 0277-786X (

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Across the world, many coastal tidal regions are unsafe to navigate due to shifting mud and sand pushed by water currents. Ability to regularly map the current location of a channel will aid safe passage for commercial, leisure and rescue craft. This work investigates the use of synthetic aperture radar data derived from satellites to provide accurate mapping of moving channels in coastal regions. As images must be collected at low tide, data availability is assessed considering the relationship between the orbital motion of the satellites and the tides. Change detection methods are applied to suitable images to map changes in the location of navigable channels. Pixels that undergo similar changes over time (e.g. from water covered to exposed sand) are grouped together by examining the principal component of the covariance matrix, for a vector composed of pixel values from the same location at different times. The Solway Firth in Great Britain is selected as a trial site as it is exposed to some of Europe's fastest tidal movements and ranges, and hence is one of Great Britain's most treacherous stretches of coastline.