More than a century of bathymetric observations and present-day shallow sediment characterization in Belfast Bay, Maine, USA: implications for pockmark field longevity

Geo-Marine Letters
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Abstract

Mechanisms and timescales responsible for pockmark formation and maintenance remain uncertain, especially in areas lacking extensive thermogenic fluid deposits (e.g., previously glaciated estuaries). This study characterizes seafloor activity in the Belfast Bay, Maine nearshore pockmark field using (1) three swath bathymetry datasets collected between 1999 and 2008, complemented by analyses of shallow box-core samples for radionuclide activity and undrained shear strength, and (2) historical bathymetric data (report and smooth sheets from 1872, 1947, 1948). In addition, because repeat swath bathymetry surveys are an emerging data source, we present a selected literature review of recent studies using such datasets for seafloor change analysis. This study is the first to apply the method to a pockmark field, and characterizes macro-scale (>5 m) evolution of tens of square kilometers of highly irregular seafloor. Presence/absence analysis yielded no change in pockmark frequency or distribution over a 9-year period (1999–2008). In that time pockmarks did not detectably enlarge, truncate, elongate, or combine. Historical data indicate that pockmark chains already existed in the 19th century. Despite the lack of macroscopic changes in the field, near-bed undrained shear-strength values of less than 7 kPa and scattered downcore 137Cs signatures indicate a highly disturbed setting. Integrating these findings with independent geophysical and geochemical observations made in the pockmark field, it can be concluded that (1) large-scale sediment resuspension and dispersion related to pockmark formation and failure do not occur frequently within this field, and (2) pockmarks can persevere in a dynamic estuarine setting that exhibits minimal modern fluid venting. Although pockmarks are conventionally thought to be long-lived features maintained by a combination of fluid venting and minimal sediment accumulation, this suggests that other mechanisms may be equally active in maintaining such irregular seafloor morphology. One such mechanism could be upwelling within pockmarks induced by near-bed currents.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title More than a century of bathymetric observations and present-day shallow sediment characterization in Belfast Bay, Maine, USA: implications for pockmark field longevity
Series title Geo-Marine Letters
DOI 10.1007/s00367-011-0228-0
Volume 31
Issue 4
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Springer
Publisher location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Geo-Marine Letters
First page 237
Last page 248
Time Range Start 1999-01-01
Time Range End 2008-12-31
Country United States
State Maine
Other Geospatial Belfast Bay