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Will Global Warming Overflow the Chesapeake Bay?

October 12, 2017
By Roger Bezdek

Flooding problems in the Chesapeake Bay region— Maryland and Virginia in particular—are due not to climate-change-induced sea-level rise, but to land subsidence.

Great Blue Heron Catching a Blue Crab on Chesapeake Bay

The 2017 hurricane season hadn’t even drawn to a close and the floodwaters hadn’t receded before former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others decided climate change was to blame. Clinton, for example, told a University of California audience on October 9, “we need to [acknowledge] climate change and the role that it plays in exacerbating such events.”

You’ve heard that alleged connection made many times before. Trouble is, it’s just not true.

This Policy Brief, released by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), finds flooding problems in the Chesapeake Bay region— Maryland and Virginia in particular—are due not to sea-level rise, but to land subsidence. Author Roger Bezdek, Ph.D., writes:

The difference is critical, and the solutions required to address the problem are entirely different. If the cause of the problem is primarily land subsidence—as it is in Norfolk and the Chesapeake Bay region—then water intrusion will continue irrespective of sea level changes. For the Chesapeake Bay region, the required remedy is the reversal of groundwater withdrawal rates, which has been used successfully elsewhere in the United States … including in the Houston-Galveston, Texas, area and the Santa Clara Valley, California.

Bezdek explains land subsidence and relative sea-level rise; discusses causes of land subsidence in the Chesapeake Bay region; covers landsSubsidence and sea-level rise in the region; and points out the links between groundwater withdrawals and land subsidence. He recommends:

Future land subsidence caused by aquifer-system compaction can be reduced or stopped by changing water-use practices. Because aquifer-system compaction is the primary cause of land subsidence in the Chesapeake Bay region, reducing compaction can reduce land subsidence and associated flood risks.

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