Extreme weather events in Chesapeake Bay give clues for future climate impacts

October 31, 2015
Extreme weather events in Chesapeake Bay give clues for future climate impacts
The Chesapeake Bay area, with Baltimore to the north is shown. Image courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Landsat Data Continuity Mission Education and Public Outreach team (GSFC LDCM EPO). Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Landsat Data Continuity Mission Education and Public Outreach team (GSFC LDCM EPO).

For the millions of people who live in its expansive coastal areas, Chesapeake Bay provides an important source of income and recreational enjoyment. To protect the ecosystem and the livelihood of area residents, it is important to assess how climate variability and change will affect Chesapeake Bay's shallow water ecosystems and water quality.

The intensity, duration, and frequency of - and precipitation-based events are key components to understanding the climate of Chesapeake Bay.

Kari Pohl of the Center for Environmental Science at the University of Maryland and colleagues studied these components by calculating 26 extreme climate indices defined by the Expert Team on Climate Change Detection and Indices. She will report their findings at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America on 1 November in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

"A traditional view of historic climate change is to determine mean annual changes," Pohl explained. "However, organisms do not feel means; they feel the day-to-day variability and , such as the frequency of warmer-than-normal days."

The goals of the project include reconstructing extreme climate changes from the recent past (1894-2014), using historically referenced data to assess near-future global climate model projections, and to ultimately use this analysis to investigate ecological problems in Chesapeake Bay, such as eelgrass diebacks.

The study saw changes that included an overall decrease in cold events, a higher probability to have a year without a cold spell, and an increase in the annual number of wet days. These extreme climate indices were strongly correlated to the shallow water environment, including streamflow and water temperature. These linkages will allow insights on how extreme changes could affect environmental boundaries and critical threshold events of vulnerable organisms.

Pohl hopes that studies such as this one "will enhance our general understanding of historical and future variability, allowing policy-makers to make better-informed decisions for coastal communities."

Explore further: Chesapeake Bay region streams are warming

More information: Paper No. 10: Chesapeake Bay Climate Extremes and Variability: a Recent Past, Present, and Near Future Analysis
Abstract hyperlink: gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Paper268364.html

Related Stories

Chesapeake Bay region streams are warming

December 8, 2014

The majority of streams in the Chesapeake Bay region are warming, and that increase appears to be driven largely by rising air temperatures. These findings are based on new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the ...

Global warming's influence on extreme weather

December 12, 2014

Extreme climate and weather events such as record high temperatures, intense downpours and severe storm surges are becoming more common in many parts of the world. But because high-quality weather records go back only about ...

Biodiversity stabilizes ecosystems during climate extremes

October 14, 2015

Can biodiversity help protect ecosystems from extreme conditions? That question is much on the minds of scientists and policy makers as a changing climate brings more wildly swinging conditions at the same time human activities ...

Recommended for you

Seals help plug Antarctic water mystery

August 24, 2016

Elephant seals have helped scientists to demonstrate that fresh water from Antarctic's melting ice shelves slows the processes responsible for the formation of deep-water ocean currents that regulate global temperatures.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SamB
1 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2015
We keep telling you guys that weather is NOT climate. Please do not confuse these two concepts. One does not imply the other and weather events in no way are an indication of climate now or in the future.
Vietvet
1 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2015
"Our goals were to 1) reconstruct extreme climate changes from the recent past (1894-2014), 2) establish a present day baseline, 3) link these meteorological changes to the near-shore aquatic environment, 4) and use this historically-referenced data to assess an ensemble of near-future global climate change model projections."

" Notable changes we observed include an overall decrease in cold events, such as a decrease in the number of Frost Days and a higher probability to have a year without a cold spell, and an increase in the number of wet days for the gridded and Northern weather station data. These extreme climate changes were strongly correlated to streamflow (Susquehanna, James, and Potomac), water temperature, and dissolved oxygen concentrations, among others. Analyses, such as this study, will enhance our general understanding of historical and future extreme climate variability"
https://gsa.confe...364.html
Vietvet
1 / 5 (1) Nov 01, 2015
@SamB

Your "We keep telling you guys that weather is NOT climate" is ironic in that deniers here have moaned that AGW isn't real because it's cold where they live.

The study IS about climate and how it's changed since 1894 in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.