Program Manager's Update
  October 2004










Field Efforts






Field Efforts

The summer of 2004 saw our first major field efforts completed in Mt. Hope Bay! These efforts included both a focused biological sampling effort in the intertidal zone, as well as a ship based physical sampling program in the near field of the thermal plume and in the passage connecting Mt. Hope Bay to Narragansett Bay. The initiation of fieldwork represents a major milestone for the MHBNL that is important for many reasons. First, the addition of field capabilities to our existing modeling program and retrospective analysis projects completes the raw infrastructure of the natural laboratory: we now have a variety of tools to tackle the complex questions that face us concerning Mt. Hope Bay. Second, the use of carefully planned field observations will provide insight into the physical and ecological structure of Mt. Hope Bay that is beyond the scope of current modeling capabilities. And third, observational results are essential for analyzing the effectiveness of current models and improving their skill.

Highlights from both field programs are available on our “current progress” web pages, and will lead towards peer-reviewed scientific publications over the course of the next several years. We focused our biological efforts on evaluating the fish community structure in the intertidal zone, the region of the shore that is alternately wet and dry due to the transitioning tide. This region is utilized by many small fish, and certain habitats in this region could be potentially important to juvenile winter flounder, both to feed and to escape predators. Unfortunately, despite relatively easy access, it is difficult to adequately sample in these regions, and they are often overlooked. As part of this field effort, we are testing innovative methods of collecting fish samples in the intertidal zone, which could result in more widespread sampling of the intertidal zone in the future. We also plan to extend our field observations by doing habitat preference work with juvenile winter flounder in our laboratory here at SMAST. Completion of these field and laboratory projects will shed light on the particular mix of fish species that use this potentially important region, and could change our understanding of winter flounder life cycle and population dynamics in the Bay.

Our physical field efforts focused on the near field region of the plume, within approximately 1 km from the discharge channel, and also on the narrow passage between Mt. Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay under the Mt. Hope Bay Bridge. The near-field region of the plume is important, due to elevated temperatures and high velocity. The elevated temperatures drive high rates of heat transfer to the atmosphere in this region. Intense mixing driven by the high plume water velocities also may mix a significant amount of heat into the surrounding ambient waters. This region of the plume is directly affected by the nature and characteristics of the discharge itself, as opposed to the far field regions of the plume, which are affected primarily by natural influences, such as the local wind field. An understanding of the physical processes in this energetic area is crucial to understanding the heat budget of the Bay. In addition, due to the small scale of the plume within this region, and the physical processes affecting it, it is difficult to fully characterize the region using traditional numerical modeling techniques. We also focused on the Mt. Hope Bay — Narragansett Bay passage because it is the major source of heated water export from Mt. Hope Bay. Taken together, the suite of physical observations conducted in Mt. Hope Bay in early September can provide key insight into the fate of heat in Mt. Hope Bay under the current discharge configuration. A possible implication of this work is the ability to assess how changes in the discharge configuration would affect the heat budget, potentially allowing for the design of cost-effective discharge modifications that would have a significant positive impact on the local heat budget.

We look forward to continuing to build our observational program in Mt. Hope Bay in the future. Check back to this site for updates as we analyze the data collected during the summer of 2004, and plan future field efforts.

 -Dan MacDonald
Obervational Program Manager
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