We live in a house overlooking a salt water river. We overlook a cove. The river feeds into Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. In the 17 years we have lived here, the river has frozen several times.

In early January of this year there were record breaking low temps which were below zero in our area. The river froze solid for a couple weeks. A couple of days ago we had record breaking WARM temps with steady rainfall. The morning after the rain storm we noticed that the bottom of the river was exposed but no water flow.

This is alarming to me because we've never seen anything like this to this extent where it has stayed without the river flowing into the cove for several days. I searched the web and found this site. Hoping someone can come up with an answer! Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to EarthScience.SE. Could you specify what you mean with "bottom of the river was exposed"? $\endgroup$ – daniel.heydebreck Jan 15 '18 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ We could see the bottom of the river. It's almost like the tide has gone out,but hasn't come back! $\endgroup$ – Deljeanne Jan 15 '18 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Could it be an ice dam,farther up the river? $\endgroup$ – Deljeanne Jan 15 '18 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ it might be the result of high air pressure combined with low tide,or a low pressure system offshore pulling the water away from where you are. $\endgroup$ – trond hansen Jan 15 '18 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ @JeopardyTempest, and others -- This is a saltwater river, meaning its level typically is dictated by the level of the water in Narragansett Bay rather than by what happens upstream. If there was an ice jam upstream, it would simply mean the river would get even saltier as saltwater from the bay flowed into the river. The level wouldn't change much unless the level in the bay itself dropped. An ice jam downstream would mean the river is disconnected from the bay, enabling rainwaters to pile up. The river would flood in this case. In my opinion, an ice jam does not explain this phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jan 16 '18 at 14:26

I suspect that rather than an ice jam as suggested in the comments, that this was a consequence of sustained high winds that happened to be blowing in just the right direction, thereby blowing the waters away from the side of the bay to which the inlet / bayou / saltwater river is connected.

Negative storm surge can drain shallow bays, sometimes dropping sea level by several feet. This happened, for example, along the west coast of Florida prior to Hurricane Irma. (That negative storm surge became a positive storm surge when the winds shifted direction.) This happens with great regularity where I live. The bayous later today and tomorrow will be very, very low due to a cold front that is pushing through right now.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi. My neighbor, Who has lived here overlooking the river for over 20 years, came up with what I believe is a plausible and logical explanation for the phenomenon. He says that what we are looking at is an optical illusion. It would appear that the bottom of the river looks like it is being exposed. He maintains that during the freeze and thaw that occurred a couple of weeks ago, the sea weed and sediment from the bottom rose to the surface and is giving the appearance of seeing the bottom! I see water flowing but part of river is still frozen and still looks like bottom of river exposed! $\endgroup$ – Deljeanne Jan 20 '18 at 15:22

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