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    Evolution of Sediment Plumes in the Chesapeake Bay and Implications of Climate Variability

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    Fluvial sediment transport impacts fisheries, marine ecosystems, and human health. In the upper Chesapeake Bay, river-induced sediment plumes are generally known as either a monotonic spatial shape or a turbidity maximum. Little is known about plume evolution in response to variation in streamflow and extreme discharge of sediment. Here we propose a typology of sediment plumes in the upper Chesapeake Bay using a 17 year time series of satellite-derived suspended sediment concentration. On the basis of estimated fluvial and wind contributions, we define an intermittent/wind-dominated type and a continuous type, the latter of which is further divided into four subtypes based on spatial features of plumes, which we refer to as Injection, Transport, Temporary Turbidity-Maximum, and Persistent Turbidity-Maximum. The four continuous types exhibit a consistent sequence of evolution within 1 week to 1 month following flood events. We also identify a “shift” in typology with increased frequency of Turbidity-Maximum types before and after Hurricane Ivan (2004), which implies that extreme events have longer-lasting effects upon estuarine suspended sediment than previously considered. These results can serve as a diagnostic tool to better predict distribution and impacts of estuarine suspended sediment in response to changes in climate and land use
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