Fluid Exchange Across the Seafloor of the Continental Shelf in the South Atlantic Bight

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Scott M White1, Alicia Marie Wilson2, Willard S Moore1, Erin Adams Smoak1 and Camaron George2, (1)University of South Carolina Columbia, Columbia, SC, United States, (2)University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, United States
Increasing evidence suggests that saline submarine groundwater discharges from the seafloor in volumes that rival river discharge, but this discharge occurs far from shore, spread regionally across the continental shelves. The very limited observational data suggest that saline discharge occurs via long-term regional flow systems and rapid flushing of porewaters from sandy sediment during storm events. This study aims to overcome the paucity of available observational constraints on characterizing regional-scale fluid exchange on passive margin continental shelves. We are developing a detailed hydrostratigraphic framework based on 200 km of CHIRP seismic lines 5-20 km offshore from Charleston, SC and 13 sediment cores up to 6.5 m long. This survey revealed varying thicknesses (0-15 m) of sediment overlying Cretaceous limestone basement, and a filled paleochannel fluvial system. We have installed 3 sets of nested wells and an additional 10 temperature-gradient arrays to observe a wide variety of environments across the shelf. The wells and thermal arrays have been recently installed in the upper 5 m of the sediment, to allow monitoring of pressure and temperature. The wells will also be sampled for Ra tracers and nutrient concentrations. The combination of wells and survey data will allow us to estimate rates of submarine groundwater discharge via hydraulic gradients and by using heat and geochemical tracers. We have developed a numerical model to invert thermal data to estimate both long-term regional groundwater flow and rapid flushing associated with storm events.