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ABSTRACT

Three genetically distinct size classes of lower regime transverse bedforms have long been known from laboratory studies, and from studies of the intertidal zone; ripples, megaripples, and sand waves. These features are also present on the subtidal shelf surface of the Middle Atlantic Bight, and their distribution in time and space allows us to draw inferences concerning the time and space pattern of sediment transport. Transverse bedforms in the Middle Atlantic Bight occur in response to tidal flows at estuary and inlet mouths and on tide-dominated banks; on the shelf surface, however, they are primarily responses to wind-driven flows. Ripples are the most widespread of the three classes. They are current-formed during peak storm flows, but are probably remade as oscillatory wave ripples as the flow wanes. Megaripples are found primarily on the inner shelf, also as responses to peak storm flows. Sand waves of several metres amplitude occur on the inner shelf in the vicinity of topographic highs; low amplitude sand waves (< 2m), solitary or in trains, are widespread on the inner shelf. They survive through many seasons of storm flows. Megaripples are especially interesting as records of specific flow events. They are widespread on the inner shelf during the winter, occurring in fields up to several kilometres in diameter. On a portion of the Long Island inner shelf during December 1976, megaripple fields covered approximately 15% of the shelf surface. They tend to be erased during the succeeding summer months. Both megaripples (short-term response elements) and sand waves (long-term response elements) indicate that sand transport in the Middle Atlantic Bight is directed to the southeast, parallel with the regional trend of the isobaths.