Over the next century, most of the barrier islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore would be lost, the ocean would breach into Back Bay in Virginia Beach and local rivers would swell and cover more than 10,000 acres of undeveloped land in Hampton Roads, a new study about global warming concludes.
The study released Thursday by the National Wildlife Federation provides one of the most detailed and localized forecasts of what might happen in the Chesapeake Bay region if climate change continues unabated.
Its conclusions are based on conservative assumptions about rising sea levels around the Bay – about 2 feet higher in coastal Virginia by 2100 – and uses computer modeling to create what-if maps of specific geographic areas, from Hampton Roads to Baltimore to Delaware Bay.
The results are not pretty: Ocean beaches decline by 58 percent along the mid-Atlantic coast; 161,000 acres of brackish marshes go underwater; 167,000 acres of dry lands are gone and replaced by open water or salt marshes.
“Even under the low-end scenarios, of sea levels rising 1 to 2 feet, there’ll be significant changes throughout the Bay,” said Patty Glick, a senior global-warming specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, based in Northern Virginia. “We absolutely have to deal with sea-level rise.”