Researchers Mapping Quick Changing Katama Bay

MARTHA’S VINEYARD – Boaters on Martha’s Vineyard know that navigational maps of Katama Bay can become obsolete very quickly and local researchers are working to find out why sands at the bottom of the bay shift so much and so often.

The bay has two inlets as water enters from Vineyard Sound through Edgartown Channel and from the Atlantic Ocean through Katama Inlet.

The size and geometry of the inlet changes frequently and has a big impact on the circulation of the bay, along with its bottom contours.

The size of the inlet runs on a 10- to 15-year cycle ranging from an opening a few kilometers wide to completely closed.

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have been charting changes in the size and depth of the inlet since before Hurricane Irene in 2011.

They collect data from very shallow waters in the bay by using a jet ski and create detailed maps of the bottom contours.

Between 2011 and 2013 the inlet moved more than a ½ mile to the east and rotated to a nearly east-west orientation. It also elongated by over a half male, narrowed by 150 meters and shoaled.

By April of 2015 the inlet was closed.

New maps will aid in navigation through the bay and harbor for seagoing vessels, along with aquaculture growers, scientists and the department of defense.

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