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Superstorm Sandy Rapid Response Mission: Field Blog

Superstorm Sandy In The Field: A Rapid Response Mission

January 16, 2013 - More Sampling

So far the weather has been wonderful. Beautiful. All I hear from the old timers is how lucky we have been: "You just don't see weather like this in January!" Temperatures in the 40's, sun, hardly any wind, and low seas, which makes data acquisition so much easier. For instance, if you're working on the deck, pulling in samples for several hours, you really start to appreciate the above-freezing temperatures and lack of precipitation. Yesterday, the night shift (Steffen, Beth and I) finished bathymetry and CHIRP survey lines off Fire Island and took a while to study them. We were looking for sampling spots. The storm created a new inlet (where the old inlet used to be) and we wanted to see how that affected the coastal region. Where did all that sand go? Is there mud from the lagoon all the way out here? Is that feature from Sandy, or is it from the time of the dinosaurs? In order to answer these questions, we must grab samples from the seafloor. So we looked at the data collected hours and minutes before and picked several spots we thought could provide some answers.

Photo of some of our gear. Photo of the team suiting up for work.

So out we go, pulling on 6 fleece shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 2 hats, long underwear, and gloves and boots of rubber. Ok, so it's not the Caribbean, but at least it's not snowing on us.





I believe I explained the grab sampling process before, but basically, it's just how it sounds. We send down a metal upside-down bear-trap-type of equipment. Photo of the grab sampler. When it hits bottom, the jaws snap shut and bring up a bite of the seafloor. Because this is such an important area for our study, we decided that we needed a densely-spaced sample set. Each sample takes about 8 minutes (we're like a well-oiled machine at this point), so we sampled for a few hours and got some surprises, including a type of fish called a skate! We found mud on top of sand and sand on top of mud. What could it mean?! Photo of the skate. Now we discuss the implications, combining CHIRP data, bathymetry, and sample properties. We interpret what we see, combine it with the 130 years of combined field experience on the boat, and come up with some really cool interpretations. I would love to share, but to get the good stuff, you're going to have to read the published version!

The dichotomy of working on a ship is amazing. You sit and watch data scroll across the screen for hours, eyes and ears perking up to anything interesting, but mostly just watching. A view of some of our CHIRP data. Then all of a sudden, you're outside, pulling up seafloor that you just saw on the screen an hour ago. Because we're a small, "rapid response" group, we can make decisions on the fly, based on the data, which is great for the science. It allows us to go where we need to go to get the most illuminating information in order to make the most accurate interpretations. This, in turn, allows us to make the best recommendations to policy makers that can protect our beaches and better prepare for future superstorms.



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