Autocorrelation between pixels in digital images of sediment can be used to measure average grain size of sediment on the bed, grain-size distribution of bed sediment, and vertical profiles in grain size in a cross-sectional image through a bed. The technique is less sensitive than traditional laboratory analyses to tails of a grain-size distribution, but it offers substantial other advantages: it is 100 times as fast; it is ideal for sampling surficial sediment (the part that interacts with a flow); it can determine vertical profiles in grain size on a scale finer than can be sampled physically; and it can be used in the field to provide almost real-time grain-size analysis. The technique can be applied to digital images obtained using any source with sufficient resolution, including digital cameras, digital video, or underwater digital microscopes (for real-time grain-size mapping of the bed).

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