Aquifer systems extending far offshore on the U.S. Atlantic margin. Academic Article uri icon


  • Low-salinity submarine groundwater contained within continental shelves is a global phenomenon. Mechanisms for emplacing offshore groundwater include glacial processes that drove water into exposed continental shelves during sea-level low stands and active connections to onshore hydrologic systems. While low-salinity groundwater is thought to be abundant, its distribution and volume worldwide is poorly understood due to the limited number of observations. Here we image laterally continuous aquifers extending 90?km offshore New Jersey and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on the U.S. Atlantic margin using new shallow water electromagnetic geophysical methods. Our data provide more continuous constraints on offshore groundwater than previous models and present evidence for a connection between the modern onshore hydrologic system and offshore aquifers. We identify clinoforms as a previously unknown structural control on the lateral extent of low-salinity groundwater and potentially a control on where low-salinity water rises into the seafloor. Our data suggest a continuous submarine aquifer system spans at least 350?km of the U.S. Atlantic coast and contains about 2800?km3 of low-salinity groundwater. Our findings can be used to improve models of past glacial, eustatic, tectonic, and geomorphic processes on continental shelves and provide insight into shelf geochemistry, biogeochemical cycles, and the deep biosphere.

publication date

  • June 18, 2019