Bay waters are already rising due to climate change and land subsidence. This combination increases the relative rate of sea level rise in the region: during the last century, the relative sea level has risen approximately one foot in the Chesapeake, nearly twice the global average. Scientists predict that the bay’s relative sea level could rise anywhere from 1.3 feet (0.4 meters) to 5.2 feet (1.59 meters) by the end of this century. Of greater immediate concern is flooding from tropical storms, hurricanes and nor’easters. Storm surge associated with extreme weather events will threaten both natural and human infrastructure in the bay.

A state-of-the-art map and website help visualize several future scenarios in the Bay. Map image courtesy National Geographic Society

Natural resource managers, conservation partners and decision makers are grappling with the scope of this problem and are working to develop strategies to adapt to future predicted changes to improve community and environmental resilience. Using the best available science, computer modeling system and visualization tools, the Fund and a consortium of some of the most highly regarded partners in the country, including the National Geographic Society, recently produced a state-of-the-art map and website to help visualize several future scenarios in the bay, so that we can help protect the bay’s natural resources and public infrastructure.

The project is also featured in A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation, a publication from the Fund, edited by David Burke and Joel Dunn, which provides conservation strategies for government agencies, community groups, businesses and others involved in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

To help educate the next generation of citizens, 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 has developed lesson plans to accompany the map and website. The education products were also part of a professional training program conducted by the Fund, NOAANational Geographic, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others that demonstrated how communities can effectively use green infrastructure planning as a tool for developing effective climate change mitigation and adaption strategies.