The input of freshwater and associated nutrients into Lynch Cove and lower Hood Canal (fig. 1) from sources such as groundwater seeps, small streams, and ephemeral creeks may play a major role in the nutrient loading and hydrodynamics of this low dissolved-oxygen (hypoxic) system. These disbursed sources exhibit a high degree of spatial variability. However, few in-situ measurements of groundwater seepage rates and nutrient concentrations are available and thus may not represent adequately the large spatial variability of groundwater discharge in the area. As a result, our understanding of these processes and their effect on hypoxic conditions in Hood Canal is limited.
To determine the spatial variability and relative intensity of these sources, the U.S. Geological Survey Washington Water Science Center collaborated with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory to obtain thermal infrared (TIR) images of the nearshore and intertidal regions of Lynch Cove at or near low tide. In the summer, cool freshwater discharges from seeps and streams, flows across the exposed, sun-warmed beach, and out on the warm surface of the marine water. These temperature differences are readily apparent in aerial thermal infrared imagery that we acquired during the summers of 2008 and 2009. When combined with co-incident video camera images, these temperature differences allow identification of the location, the type, and the relative intensity of the sources.