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Assessing Water Quality of the Chesapeake Bay by the Impact of Sea Level Rise and Warming, Wang P., Linker L., Wang H., Bhatt G., Yactayo G., Hinson K., and Tian R.

Published: February 06, 2017

The influence of sea level rise and warming on circulation and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay under projected climate conditions in 2050 were estimated by computer simulation. Four estuarine circulation scenarios in the estuary were run using the same watershed load in 1991-2000 period. They are, 1) the Base Scenario, which represents the current climate condition, 2) a Sea Level Rise Scenario, 3) a Warming Scenario, and 4) a combined Sea Level Rise and Warming Scenario. With a 1.5-1.9oC increase in monthly air temperatures in the Warming Scenario, water temperature in the Bay is estimated to increase by 0.8-1oC. Summer average anoxic volume is estimated to increase 1.4 percent compared to the Base Scenario, because of an increase in algal blooms in the spring and summer, promotion of oxygen consumptive processes, and an increase of stratification. However, a 0.5-meter Sea Level Rise Scenario results in a 12 percent reduction of anoxic volume. This is mainly due to increased estuarine circulation that promotes oxygen-rich sea water intrusion in lower layers. The combined Sea Level Rise and Warming Scenario results in a 10.8 percent reduction of anoxic volume. Global warming increases precipitation and consequently increases nutrient loads from the watershed by approximately 5-7 percent. A scenario that used a 10% increase in watershed loads and current estuarine circulation patterns yielded a 19 percent increase in summer anoxic volume, while a scenario that used a 10% increase in watershed loads and modified estuarine circulation patterns by the aforementioned sea level rise and warming yielded a 6 percent increase in summer anoxic volume. Impacts on phytoplankton, sediments, and water clarity were also analysed.

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