Mapping Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge in the Chesapeake Bay

June 28, 2010

Map of Chesapeake Bay

Image of interactive map.

Arlington, VA — The Chesapeake Bay region is one of the most vulnerable areas in the nation to sea level rise induced by climate change, trailing only parts of Louisiana, Florida, Texas and North Carolina in national assessments, and a new state-of-the-art map and website unveiled today by The Conservation Fund show just what that means for the Bay’s natural resources and public infrastructure.

Sea level is predicted to rise steadily along the East Coast due to a changing climate, which, along with periodic storm surge, could result in shoreline erosion, coastal flooding, salt water intrusion of freshwater resources and inundation of some coastal areas. With more than 11,600 miles of coastline along its main body of water and tidal tributaries, the Chesapeake Bay is at risk.

Natural resource managers and decision makers are grappling with the scope of this problem and are developing strategies to adapt to future predicted changes. Rising waters and potential storms could profoundly impact the way in which we determine appropriate areas for conservation and development.

“The purpose of these resources is to raise awareness of one of the most significant threats that climate change poses to natural and human infrastructure in the Bay region, and to help communities respond and adapt to its impacts,” said Erik Meyers, vice president of Sustainable Programs for The Conservation Fund. “Until now, there hasn’t been a reliable and easily accessible educational resource available for students, professionals, businesses and governments to explore the phenomena. We were pleased to work with the National Geographic Society and a group of experts from around the Bay to produce visually oriented, education tools that go beyond simply reading about it.”

The new National Geographic map and website describe the threats that sea level rise and storm surge pose to the environment, wildlife and our roads, buildings and houses, and provides a Bay-wide visualization identifying low-lying threatened areas. They also provide snap shots of high-resolution inundation models for Washington, D.C., Dorchester County, Maryland, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Go to website >>

As a way to educate the next generation of scientists, environmentalists and community leaders, 25,000 copies of the map are being distributed to schools in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. National Geographic’s Education Division is currently developing lesson plans to accompany the map and website.

The map and website are featured in A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation, a new book from The Conservation Fund that serves as a resource for government agencies, community groups, businesses and others involved in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The education products were also part of a professional training program conducted by The Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and others that emphasizes the need to incorporate climate change impacts in strategic conservation planning.

These educational resources are the product of a partnership between The Conservation Fund, National Geographic Society, Chesapeake Bay Observing System, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and Burke Environmental Associates.

Financial assistance for this Sectoral Application Research Program project was provided by the Climate Program Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), pursuant to NOAA Award No. NA08OAR4310723. Technical assistance was provided by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Annapolis, MD. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the research partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce or the US Government.

Additional funding was provided by the Bancroft Foundation and the Chesapeake Conservancy, formerly the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

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