Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay

Raymond G. Najjar, Christopher R. Pyke, Mary Beth Adams, Denise Breitburg, Carl Hershner, Michael Kemp, Robert Howarth, Margaret R. Mulholland, Michael Paolisso, David Secor, Kevin Sellner, Denice Wardrop, Robert Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

We review current understanding of the potential impact of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay. Scenarios for CO2 emissions indicate that by the end of the 21st century the Bay region will experience significant changes in climate forcings with respect to historical conditions, including increases in CO2 concentrations, sea level, and water temperature of 50-160%, 0.7-1.6 m, and 2-6 °C, respectively. Also likely are increases in precipitation amount (very likely in the winter and spring), precipitation intensity, intensity of tropical and extratropical cyclones (though their frequency may decrease), and sea-level variability. The greatest uncertainty is associated with changes in annual streamflow, though it is likely that winter and spring flows will increase. Climate change alone will cause the Bay to function very differently in the future. Likely changes include: (1) an increase in coastal flooding and submergence of estuarine wetlands; (2) an increase in salinity variability on many time scales; (3) an increase in harmful algae; (4) an increase in hypoxia; (5) a reduction of eelgrass, the dominant submerged aquatic vegetation in the Bay; and (6) altered interactions among trophic levels, with subtropical fish and shellfish species ultimately being favored in the Bay. The magnitude of these changes is sensitive to the CO2 emission trajectory, so that actions taken now to reduce CO2 emissions will reduce climate impacts on the Bay. Research needs include improved precipitation and streamflow projections for the Bay watershed and whole-system monitoring, modeling, and process studies that can capture the likely non-linear responses of the Chesapeake Bay system to climate variability, climate change, and their interaction with other anthropogenic stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Volume86
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

Fingerprint

Chesapeake Bay
climate change
stream flow
algae
sea level
climate
submerged aquatic plants
winter
submergence
Zostera marina
shellfish
trajectories
hypoxia
water temperature
wetlands
uncertainty
seawater
salinity
streamflow
monitoring

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science

Cite this

Najjar, R. G., Pyke, C. R., Adams, M. B., Breitburg, D., Hershner, C., Kemp, M., ... Wood, R. (2010). Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 86(1), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2009.09.026
Najjar, Raymond G. ; Pyke, Christopher R. ; Adams, Mary Beth ; Breitburg, Denise ; Hershner, Carl ; Kemp, Michael ; Howarth, Robert ; Mulholland, Margaret R. ; Paolisso, Michael ; Secor, David ; Sellner, Kevin ; Wardrop, Denice ; Wood, Robert. / Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay. In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 2010 ; Vol. 86, No. 1. pp. 1-20.
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Najjar, RG, Pyke, CR, Adams, MB, Breitburg, D, Hershner, C, Kemp, M, Howarth, R, Mulholland, MR, Paolisso, M, Secor, D, Sellner, K, Wardrop, D & Wood, R 2010, 'Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay', Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, vol. 86, no. 1, pp. 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2009.09.026

Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay. / Najjar, Raymond G.; Pyke, Christopher R.; Adams, Mary Beth; Breitburg, Denise; Hershner, Carl; Kemp, Michael; Howarth, Robert; Mulholland, Margaret R.; Paolisso, Michael; Secor, David; Sellner, Kevin; Wardrop, Denice; Wood, Robert.

In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Vol. 86, No. 1, 01.01.2010, p. 1-20.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay

AU - Najjar, Raymond G.

AU - Pyke, Christopher R.

AU - Adams, Mary Beth

AU - Breitburg, Denise

AU - Hershner, Carl

AU - Kemp, Michael

AU - Howarth, Robert

AU - Mulholland, Margaret R.

AU - Paolisso, Michael

AU - Secor, David

AU - Sellner, Kevin

AU - Wardrop, Denice

AU - Wood, Robert

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N2 - We review current understanding of the potential impact of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay. Scenarios for CO2 emissions indicate that by the end of the 21st century the Bay region will experience significant changes in climate forcings with respect to historical conditions, including increases in CO2 concentrations, sea level, and water temperature of 50-160%, 0.7-1.6 m, and 2-6 °C, respectively. Also likely are increases in precipitation amount (very likely in the winter and spring), precipitation intensity, intensity of tropical and extratropical cyclones (though their frequency may decrease), and sea-level variability. The greatest uncertainty is associated with changes in annual streamflow, though it is likely that winter and spring flows will increase. Climate change alone will cause the Bay to function very differently in the future. Likely changes include: (1) an increase in coastal flooding and submergence of estuarine wetlands; (2) an increase in salinity variability on many time scales; (3) an increase in harmful algae; (4) an increase in hypoxia; (5) a reduction of eelgrass, the dominant submerged aquatic vegetation in the Bay; and (6) altered interactions among trophic levels, with subtropical fish and shellfish species ultimately being favored in the Bay. The magnitude of these changes is sensitive to the CO2 emission trajectory, so that actions taken now to reduce CO2 emissions will reduce climate impacts on the Bay. Research needs include improved precipitation and streamflow projections for the Bay watershed and whole-system monitoring, modeling, and process studies that can capture the likely non-linear responses of the Chesapeake Bay system to climate variability, climate change, and their interaction with other anthropogenic stressors.

AB - We review current understanding of the potential impact of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay. Scenarios for CO2 emissions indicate that by the end of the 21st century the Bay region will experience significant changes in climate forcings with respect to historical conditions, including increases in CO2 concentrations, sea level, and water temperature of 50-160%, 0.7-1.6 m, and 2-6 °C, respectively. Also likely are increases in precipitation amount (very likely in the winter and spring), precipitation intensity, intensity of tropical and extratropical cyclones (though their frequency may decrease), and sea-level variability. The greatest uncertainty is associated with changes in annual streamflow, though it is likely that winter and spring flows will increase. Climate change alone will cause the Bay to function very differently in the future. Likely changes include: (1) an increase in coastal flooding and submergence of estuarine wetlands; (2) an increase in salinity variability on many time scales; (3) an increase in harmful algae; (4) an increase in hypoxia; (5) a reduction of eelgrass, the dominant submerged aquatic vegetation in the Bay; and (6) altered interactions among trophic levels, with subtropical fish and shellfish species ultimately being favored in the Bay. The magnitude of these changes is sensitive to the CO2 emission trajectory, so that actions taken now to reduce CO2 emissions will reduce climate impacts on the Bay. Research needs include improved precipitation and streamflow projections for the Bay watershed and whole-system monitoring, modeling, and process studies that can capture the likely non-linear responses of the Chesapeake Bay system to climate variability, climate change, and their interaction with other anthropogenic stressors.

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