Climate change will affect the Chesapeake Bay in a number of ways. Some of these effects—including rising seas, warming temperatures and changes in wildlife abundance and migration patterns—have already been observed in the region.
Over the past century, for example, Bay waters have risen about one foot, and are predicted to rise between 1.3 and 5.2 feet over the next century. Between 1960 and 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey observed an increase in the region's air temperature of 1.98 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 1960 and 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported an increase in the region's stream temperature of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit. And between 1958 and 2012, the EPA also reported a more than 70 percent increase in the amount of rainfall measured during heavy precipitation events in the northeastern United States.
Climactic changes can affect plants and animals. Research has shown that the the "peak bloom" of the cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., has shifted five days earlier over the past 90 years. Research has also shown that the temperature at which the region's fish begin to spawn or migrate is occuring three weeks earlier than it did in 1960. And as the temperature of the region's streams has increased, scientists have documented the disappearance of the only native trout in our watershed, which need cold, clean water to survive. In fact, high water temperature has been named the greatest disturbance to brook trout populations in Maryland and Virginia.
In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, the Chesapeake Bay Program committed to monitoring and assessing the trends and likely impacts of our changing climate and to pursuing, designing and constructing restoration and protection projects that will enhance the resiliency of our aquatic ecosystems against the impacts of coastal erosion, coastal flooding, more intense and more frequent storms, and sea level rise.