Western Cape Cod Bay: Hydrographic, Geological, Ecological, and Meteorological Backgrounds for Environmental Studies

  • John D. Davis
Part of the Lecture Notes on Coastal and Estuarine Studies book series (COASTAL, volume 11)


Cape Cod Bay is a large embayment on the U.S. Atlantic Coast in Massachusetts (41°45′—42°05′ N, 70°—70°34′ W) enclosed on the south and east by Cape Cod, on the west by the Massachusetts coast, and opens to Massachusetts Bay and the Gulf of Maine on the north. The Bay connects with Buzzards Bay to the southwest via the Cape Cod Canal, a sea-level waterway.

Biological investigations in Cape Cod Bay began with the studies of A.A. Gould in 1837. Gould’s work noted that Cape Cod constituted a demarkation line, with considerable differentiation in marine community composition north and south of the Cape. Subsequent studies revealed more of the biotic province delineation but focused more to the south of the Cape than on Cape Cod Bay.

Recent geological history of Cape Cod Bay involved the Wisconsin Ice Sheet retreat and accumulation of glacial drift to form the Cape and adjacent islands. Meteorological patterns today bring conflicting influences of continental and maritime air masses, producing considerable variation in weather. Storm tracks frequently pass over the Cape Cod Bay region. Water mass circulation coordinates with counter-clockwise surface flows persistent in the Gulf of Maine; inflow to the Bay tends to be along the western shore while outflow is mainly around the east shore and the tip of the Cape. Additional water exchange involves bilateral (tide driven) flows through the Cape Cod Canal between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay.


Army Corps Atomic Energy Commission Western Shore Study Background Scotian Shelf 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1984

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  • John D. Davis

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