Massachusetts Bay is a semi-enclosed embayment in the western Gulf of Maine about 50 km wide and 100 km long. Bottom sediment resuspension is controlled predominately by storm-induced surface waves and transport by the tidal- and wind-driven circulation. Because the Bay is open to the northeast, winds from the northeast ('Northeasters') generate the largest surface waves and are thus the most effective in resuspending sediments. The three-dimensional oceanographic circulation model Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) is used to explore the resuspension, transport, and deposition of sediment caused by Northeasters. The model transports multiple sediment classes and tracks the evolution of a multilevel sediment bed. The surficial sediment characteristics of the bed are coupled to one of several bottom-boundary layer modules that calculate enhanced bottom roughness due to wave-current interaction. The wave field is calculated from the model Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN). Two idealized simulations were carried out to explore the effects of Northeasters on the transport and fate of sediments. In one simulation, an initially spatially uniform bed of mixed sediments exposed to a series of Northeasters evolved to a pattern similar to the existing surficial sediment distribution. A second set of simulations explored sediment-transport pathways caused by storms with winds from the northeast quadrant by simulating release of sediment at selected locations. Storms with winds from the north cause transport southward along the western shore of Massachusetts Bay, while storms with winds from the east and southeast drive northerly nearshore flow. The simulations show that Northeasters can effectively transport sediments from Boston Harbor and the area offshore of the harbor to the southeast into Cape Cod Bay and offshore into Stellwagen Basin. This transport pattern is consistent with Boston Harbor as the source of silver found in the surficial sediments of Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Basin.
Additional publication details
Storm-driven sediment transport in Massachusetts Bay