The seafloor of the central part of lower Cook Inlet, Alaska, is characterized by the presence of different sizes and types of bedforms. The bedforms in the sandy sediments include straight-crested to sinuous to lunate ripples, small, medium, and large sand waves, sand ridges, sand ribbons, and sand patches. In addition, rocky and pebbly seafloor has been identified. The water depth ranges from 25 to 120 m, and surface currents average 3.8 kt (2 m/s). Bottom currents have been measured at as much as 42 cm/s at 1 m above bottom. Underwater television observations have shown that the rate of sand transport is lower than expected because small amounts of clay and organic matter appear to inhibit remobilization. Only during the last 1 to 2 h of ebb and flood stages of spring tides, and during storms, does significant transport occur. Comparison of data from high-resolution seismic profiling systems, side-scan sonar, bottom television and camera, and bottom sampling shows that bottom and bedform interpretations based solely on sonographs can be in error. Measuring the length of 'acoustic shadows' on sonographs to obtain bedform heights gives dimensions that are too large by factors of 3-7. Bottom television investigations revealed that the troughs between small sand waves are flat and carpeted by shell fragments. Such coarse material has a high acoustic reflectance that is not related to slope or height and can lead to false interpretations on bedform dimensions. Our observations have shown that small sand waves commonly superimposed on larger ones are slightly higher than those present on flat hard bottom but are still less than calculated from acoustic shadows. Where the bottom is rather smooth or contains elevations small enough to be masked by bathymetric 'noise' caused by the pitching of the vessel, sonographs typically show either small sand waves, sand ribbons, sand patches, rocks, or smooth bottom. The smooth-bottom category can vary widely from ripples to gravelly or shelly or to small rocks with biological overgrowth as verified by television observations. Our observations have clearly demonstrated the need for an integrated multi-scale observation and sampling program in order to classify the bottom characteristics and to provide quantitative data for transport calculations. ?? 1980.
Additional publication details
Identification of bedforms in lower cook inlet, Alaska