Date of Award

Fall 1988

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean & Earth Sciences



Committee Director

George F. Oertel

Committee Member

Carvel H. Blair

Committee Member

William M. Dunstan

Committee Member

Kevin G. Sellner

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.O35F79


Physical processes which may affect estuarine circulation in a coastal plain estuary were monitored to determine their relative importance on temporal and spatial variability of the concentration, composition, and particle-size of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in Patuxent River estuary, MD, during 1985-86. Discharge rates from Patuxent River determined the character of fresh and estuarine water mixing, and magnitude of SPM concentration in the upper estuary. The mixing zone between fresh and estuarine water, defined as 0 - 1.5 °‰, and turbidity maximum were geographically separated during most of the study period. This suggests that two-layer circulation may be less important than bottom sediment type, scouring ability of tidal currents, and seasonal increases in SPM concentrations related to pulses of freshwater runoff, in the formation of upper estuary turbidity patterns.

Wind direction and magnitude had little affect on SPM concentration for upper and lower estuary stations, but longitudinal variation in tidal current velocity was significantly correlated (r2 - 0.81) with SPM concentration. Lower estuary SPM particle-size and composition, dominated by organic constituents 16.0 - 20.0 μm in diameter, were horizontally limited by rapid salinity change and a large reduction in channel cross-sectional area landward of station 4. Upper estuary SPM was characterized by very-fine to fine-silt. However, large aggregates ranging between 25.0 - 32.0 μm in diameter were noted in the upper estuary in the summer, coincident with summer algal blooms.


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