Bay Journal

December 2019 - Volume 29 - Number 9

Yes, Virginia, it has been raining more

In coastal Virginia, sea level rise often steals the headlines as the culprit behind increased flooding. But there’s at least one other climate-related factor exacerbating rising waters across the state: It’s raining more often and more intensely.

A report published in the Virginia Journal of Science this year looked at rain data from 1947 to 2016 and found Virginia getting about a half-inch more rain per decade. Some of the 43 locations monitored saw greater increases than others, while only four did not see an increase.

Several locations have experienced more than an inch of increased precipitation per decade. Wallaceton, in the Norfolk area, had the largest change: 1.5 inches per decade. 

Oyster farms make slight improvement in water quality

It’s easy to demonstrate the filtering prowess of oysters by placing them in a small aquarium and filling it with algae-clouded water. Within a few hours, as time-lapse YouTube videos show, the glass tank is nearly crystal clear.

It’s tougher to see that happen in the wild, though. A recent field study by researchers with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found that oyster farms in the lower Chesapeake Bay had only slight — but positive — impacts on water quality.

“We were expecting to see more effects of the oysters filtering the water than we saw,” said Jessica Turner, a Ph.D. student who was the study’s lead author. But, she added, “They’re not having any negative impacts either, and that’s definitely worth noting.”

Roundabouts, vegetable plots transform once-clogged traffic arteries

The days are turning chilly, the sunshine dwindling. A few dozen yards away, one of the busiest intersections in this part of Northern Virginia drowns out nature’s notes with a soundtrack of jake brakes and roaring engines.

But against this hostile agricultural backdrop, several rows of eggplants, tomatoes and radishes soldier on — the final fruits of a harvest that hardly anyone saw coming.

“I’ve been working on this since 2006, and people said, ‘You’re never going to be able to do it,’” recalled Michael Kane, director of conservation for the Piedmont Environmental Council. “We changed what was inevitable.”

Flood of volunteers measures Norfolk’s increasing tides

When the tide bubbles up from storm sewers, turning her neighborhood into a Western Hemisphere version of Venice, Christina Laughlin starts navigating — on her phone.

It doesn’t have to rain to flood her subdivision, which sits on a low-lying peninsula a few miles from downtown Norfolk, VA. The community is a frequent victim of “sunny day” floods, which are caused by high tides instead of water falling from above.

Such was the case on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 27. Armed with her smartphone, Laughlin paced up and down her street, pressing a button every few steps to create a digital map of the high-water line.

Freshwater flows to Bay highest in 82 years of monitoring

The 12-month “water year” that ended September 30 had the highest river flows into the Chesapeake Bay since such monitoring began 82 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

On average, more than 974,000 gallons of fresh water surged into the Bay each second last year, which was also the second consecutive year that river flows in the Bay were above normal. It marks the first time the Chesapeake has borne the brunt of back-to-back high flow years since 2003 and 2004, according to USGS data.

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