Sediment transport in Norton Sound, Alaska

Marine Geology

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The Yukon River, the largest single source of Bering Sea sediment, delivers >95% of its sediment load at the southwest corner of Norton Sound during the ice-free months of late May through October. During this period, surface winds in the northern Bering Sea area are generally light from the south and southwest, and surface waves are not significant. Although wind stress may cause some transport of low-density turbid surface water into the head of Norton Sound, the most significant transport of Yukon River suspended matter occurs within advective currents flowing north across the outer part of the sound. The thickest accumulations of modern Yukon silt and very fine sand occur beneath this persistent current. We monitored temporal variations in bottom currents, pressure, and suspended-matter concentrations within this major transport pathway for 80 days in the summer of 1977 using a Geological Processes Bottom Environmental (GEOPROBE) tripod system. The record reveals two distinctive periods of bottom flow and sediment transport: an initial 59 days (July 8-September 5) of fair-weather conditions, characterized by tidally dominated currents and relatively low, stable suspended-matter concentrations; and a 21-day period (September 5-September 26) during which several storms traversed the northern Bering Sea, mean suspended-matter concentrations near the bottom increased by a factor of five, and the earlier tidal dominance was overshadowed by wind-driven and oscillatory wave-generated currents. Friction velocities (u*) at the GEOPROBE site were generally subcritical during the initial fair-weather period. In contrast, the 21-day stormy period was characterized by u* values that exceeded the critical level of 1.3 cm/s more than 60% of the time. The GEPROBE data suggest that the very fine sand constituting about 50% of the sediment on the outer part of the Yukon prodelta is transported during a few late-summer and fall storms each year. A conservative estimate shows that suspended-matter transport during the storms in September 1977 was equal to four months of fair-weather transport. ?? 1980.

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Sediment transport in Norton Sound, Alaska
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Marine Geology
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Marine Geology
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