Bay Journal

Topics: Climate Change

New data from VIMS finds sea-level rise is accelerating in Bay

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As sea-level rise increasingly becomes part of public discourse and the public agenda, the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences is ramping up efforts to provide reliable data for policy makers seeking to combat the changing circumstances.

“There’s a lot of resiliency planning going on looking at sea-level-rise projections, and we feel it’s important to know when we’re doing this planning how the data match up with the projections,” said Molly Mitchell, a marine scientist with VIMS’ Center for Coastal Resource Management.

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About Climate Change

The Chesapeake Bay was formed 10,000 years ago as a warming climate melted vast ice sheets, raising ocean levels that flooded the lower Susquehanna River valley. Scientists say today’s climate is changing far more rapidly, with potentially severe consequences for the region.

Chesapeake Bay water levels have risen by nearly a foot in the past century, and the rate of sea level rise appears to be accelerating. Warming temperatures are expected to affect rainfall patterns in the region and contribute to more intense storms.

Habitats for many species will be greatly altered. For instance, eelgrass, the dominant underwater grass in high salinity areas of the Chesapeake, is likely to decline because of its low tolerance to high temperatures.

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