Bay Journal

January 1999 - Volume 8 - Number 10

Warming trend would put heat on Bay recovery efforts

The year is 1996. In January, severe "100-year" floods rip through the watershed, gouging out costly stream restoration projects built just the year before.

Heavy rains wash record amounts of nutrients off the land and into the Bay. Algae concentrations hit record highs in the spring. And, aided by strong river flows, the oxygen-depleted "dead zone" is one of the largest ever recorded in the Bay.

Then came the first six months of 1998. Flows into the Bay passed the record set only two years before for the same period. Again, the "dead zone" hit record proportions. In two earlier years, 1993 and 1994, the high flow story was strikingly similar. ...

Understanding carbon sinks a key to predicting climate change

One of the biggest uncertainties about global climate change is how much of the planet's carbon dioxide is, so to speak, going down the sink. While carbon dioxide is going up into the atmosphere, large amounts are absorbed by such things as oceans and forests, areas that are known as "carbon sinks."

The better identification of all the carbon sinks - and figuring out whether their ability to absorb carbon dioxide will increase or decrease in the future - is pivotal in the effort to predict the impacts of future climate changes. ...

Trumpeter swans migrate to Bay from New York

A flock of 17 trumpeter swans followed an ultralight aircraft 330 miles from New York to Maryland's Eastern Shore in December, re-establishing what biologists hope will become a permanent migratory route for the continent's largest waterfowl.

Their arrival at the Horsehead Wetlands Center near Grasonville on Dec. 15 capped an 11-day migration. The center, operated by the Waterfowl Trust of North America, will become the winter home for the re-established population.

The flight culminated a project that began more than a year ago when Environmental Studies at Airlie, a nonprofit scientific organization, hatched and reared a group of trumpeters as part of an experiment to see if they could be trained to fly behind an ultralight, a technique used successfully with Canada geese and popularized in the movie, "Fly Away Home." ...

Third of PA fish are in trouble—as are efforts to protect them

The bigmouth buffalo, black bullhead and mountain madtom aren't fish that most anglers would quickly identify on the end of their lines. But then, the odds are not great that they'll catch them - at least not in Pennsylvania.

They are among 54 species that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says are endangered or threatened in the state's waterways - or potential candidates to end up in one of those categories.

Put another way, that means 34 percent of the state's 159 native fish species are in trouble. ...

Bay Program prepares to map course for action beyond 2000.

It's less than 12 months to the new millennium and the Bay Program has a few key questions to ask itself.

Like, where does it go from here? And, how does it get there?

For the past dozen years, the guiding document for the restoration effort has been the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. That set a broad course for the Bay cleanup, including the Year 2000 nutrient reduction goal, which has been a driving force for the Bay Program.

To mark the arrival of the new century - and the deadline for the nutrient reduction goal - the Bay Program wants to have a new document to direct efforts for the next decade or so. ...

‘Businesses for the Bay’ acknowledges efforts of 4 businesses, individuals.

The Chesapeake Executive Council recognized four businesses and one individual this year for their efforts to protect the Chesapeake through participation in the "Businesses for the Bay" program.

Businesses for the Bay is the Bay Program's voluntary initiative for businesses and government facilities within the watershed to protect the environment and reduce operating costs through pollution prevention. More than 230 businesses have joined the program, and more than 70 individuals have volunteered as Business-to-Business mentors to provide free, technical assistance to other program participants. ...

Executive Council launches directive to make schools active Bay partners

In the hope that a Bay-wise population will be a better steward of the Chesapeake and its watershed, the Executive Council launched a new education initiative aimed at bringing the Bay into the classroom.

The initiative, aimed at the 3 million pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade in the watershed, seeks to connect students with the Bay through classroom work and hands-on restoration and research activities.

"The future of the Chesapeake Bay is the students sitting in classrooms all across the watershed," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. "Soon, it will be their responsibility to decide the Bay's fate. Right now, it is our responsibility to provide them with the best available information and the best decision-making skills possible. This new initiative will help us to do that." ...

‘Chesapeake Milk’ goes on sale

"Chesapeake Milk" - a new product that returns part of its proceeds to dairy farmers who follow rigid environmental standards - hit grocery store shelves in December.

Initially, the milk is being sold exclusively in Fresh Fields stores, but it may expand to other chains after a test market period, according to the Dairy Network Partnership, which introduced the product.

The milk carton bears a special Environmental Quality Initiative mark, which indicates that 5 cents of the price of each half gallon will go into a special Environmental Quality Stewardship Fund. The fund will be used to provide incentives to farmers who strive to improve their environmental management. ...

Drought conditions continue to affect Chesapeake region.

The switch from deluge to drought continued throughout the Bay watershed in November. After 1998 opened up with the wettest six months on record, things have gotten steadily drier, with much of the watershed suffering drought conditions.

That was reflected in the November flows into the Bay from its tributaries, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Freshwater flows into the Bay averaged 9.3 billion gallons a day - far below the November long-term average of about 38 billion gallons a day. ...

VA announces $45.15 million for water programs

Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore wants to boost spending on water pollution control programs by $45.15 million, mostly to help meet Chesapeake cleanup objectives.

The money, which would be available July 1 if the General Assembly goes along, would be deposited in the state's Water Quality Improvement Fund, and is in addition to the $54 million deposit made last year for the state's two-year budget cycle.

"Virginians deserve and expect the highest quality water," Gilmore said in announcing the proposal. "During the 1998 General Assembly session, we made a number of important investments in water quality, and with the continued economic growth of the past year, we can now do much more in the upcoming session." ...

EPA prescription for waterways included controlled diet of nutrients.

Recent studies have shown that the U.S. population, as a whole, is becoming more overweight. Physicians suggest people eat better diets.

Increasingly, scientists say much of the same is true for the nation's rivers, lakes and estuaries. Waterways throughout the United States are being overfed with nutrients, which - like other foods - are crucial to life but a bad thing when overdone.

Instead of a stomach bulge, excess nutrients in waterways can show up as excess algae and bacteria, lower levels of oxygen in the water and a variety of other effects. ...

L. Eugene Cronin, Bay research pioneer, dead at 81

L. Eugene Cronin, an expert on the blue crab and a pioneer in Bay research who helped to initiate the Chesapeake restoration effort, died Dec. 18, 1998. He was 81.

Cronin, a past board member of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, was one of the most influential scientists in the Chesapeake Bay region and a leader in the field of estuarine science nationally and internationally. He was one of the key scientists whose concern about the decline of the Bay in the 1970s helped to trigger a five-year EPA study of the ecosystem, which led to the creation of the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program in 1983. ...

Rising sea levels threaten critical Chesapeake habitat

With a rising tide lapping at their edges, tidal marshes on many parts of the Eastern Shore are being swallowed by the Bay at a rate faster than they can be replaced.

"A lot of people think the marshes will move inland, but that doesn't happen," said Court Stevenson, a scientist at the University of Maryland Center of Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory who has seen rising waters engulf hundreds of acres of the nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge over the years. "The water levels have been rising too fast." ...

‘98 was warmest year in hot century

The United Nations in December reported that 1998 was the hottest year on record, while scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the 20th century was the warmest in at least 1,200 years.

Earth's average temperature in 1998 was projected to be 1 degree above the long-term average of 59 F, said the World Meteorological Association. That is the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1860, according to the U.N. weather agency. It will be the 20th consecutive year in which the Earth's surface temperature has been above normal. Temperature records have been set in each of the past 18 months. ...

Uncertain models predict uncertain outcomes

Most of the predictions about the impacts of future global warming are derived from complex computer models that simulate a climate system too complex to interpret any other way.

A growing number of global climate models have been developed independently by different researchers around the world in recent years, but the models are not without their limitations.

Complex interactions often have to be greatly simplified for the computer, and models usually have a very "coarse" resolution - the entire Susquehanna Basin may be represented by only one or two information points on a global model. ...

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