Abstract Several monitoring approaches have been used to understand the physical, chemical, and biological processes associated with coastal sewage discharges. However, these efforts have not improved the understanding of the interaction of effluent plume/coastal ocean processes. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have already been shown to be very useful for performing high-resolution surveys of small features such as outfall plumes. Some of the advantages of these platforms include easier field logistics, low cost per deployment, good spatial coverage, sampling over repeated sections, and the ability to perform feature-based or adaptive sampling. Once the data have been collected in the field, it is necessary to extrapolate from monitoring samples to unsampled locations. Geostatistics has been successfully used to obtain information; for example, regarding the spatial distribution of soil properties. Besides giving estimated values at unsampled locations, it provides a measure of the accuracy of the estimate, which is a significant advantage over traditional methods used to assess pollution. In this work, geostatistics is used to model and map the spatial distribution of temperature measurements gathered by an AUV in a sea outfall monitoring campaign, with the aim of distinguishing the effluent plume from the receiving waters and characterizing its spatial variability in the vicinity of the discharge. The results demonstrate that this methodology can provide good estimates of the dispersion of effluent, and it is therefore very valuable in assessing the environmental impact and managing sea outfalls.
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