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Combined multibeam and bathymetry data from Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound: a regional perspective

March 14, 2014

Detailed bathymetric maps of the sea floor in Rhode Island and Block Island Sounds are of great interest to the New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts research and management communities because of this area's ecological, recreational, and commercial importance. Geologically interpreted digital terrain models from individual surveys provide important benthic environmental information, yet many applications of this information require a geographically broader perspective. For example, individual surveys are of limited use for the planning and construction of cross-sound infrastructure, such as cables and pipelines, or for the testing of regional circulation models. To address this need, we integrated 14 contiguous multibeam bathymetric datasets that were produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during charting operations into one digital terrain model that covers much of Block Island Sound and extends eastward across Rhode Island Sound. The new dataset, which covers over 1244 square kilometers, is adjusted to mean lower low water, gridded to 4-meter resolution, and provided in Universal Transverse Mercator Zone 19, North American Datum of 1983 and geographic World Geodetic Survey of 1984 projections. This resolution is adequate for sea-floor feature and process interpretation but is small enough to be queried and manipulated with standard Geographic Information System programs and to allow for future growth. Natural features visible in the data include boulder lag deposits of winnowed Pleistocene strata, sand-wave fields, and scour depressions that reflect the strength of oscillating tidal currents and scour by storm-induced waves. Bedform asymmetry allows interpretations of net sediment transport. Anthropogenic features visible in the data include shipwrecks and dredged channels. Together the merged data reveal a larger, more continuous perspective of bathymetric topography than previously available, providing a fundamental framework for research and resource management activities offshore of Rhode Island.