Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming

The Chesapeake Bay is our nation's largest estuary and sustains more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals. However, if global warming continues unabated, projected rising sea levels will significantly reshape the region's coastal landscape, threatening waterfowl hunting and recreational saltwater fishing in Virginia and Maryland.

How is Global Warming Changing the Chesapeake Bay Region?

  • With its expansive coastline, low-lying topography, and growing coastal population, the Chesapeake Bay region is among the places in the nation most vulnerable to sea-level rise.
  • Average sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay have been rising. Many places along the bay have seen a one-foot increase in relative sea-level rise over the 20th century, six inches due to global warming and another six inches due to naturally subsiding coastal lands--a factor that places the Chesapeake Bay region at particular risk.
  • Already, at least 13 islands in the bay have disappeared entirely, and many more are at risk of being lost soon.
  • Sea-level rise in the Chesapeake Bay region could reach 17-28 inches above 1990 levels by 2095.

Chesapeake Bay Sea-Level Rise By Region

See how sea-level rise will impact Chesapeake Bay habitats. Click each region to learn about global warming impacts in that area.

Map of the Chesapeake Bay
Delaware Bay  |  Maryland Shore  |  Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Tangier Sound  |  Virginia's Eastern Shore
Upper Tidewater Region  |  Lower Tidewater Region



For more in-depth information about how the Chesapeake Bay is being impacted by global warming, check out the following reports:

Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Habitats of the Chesapeake Bay: A Summary - May, 2008
NWF commissioned a modeling analysis of how Chesapeake Bay habitats will be affected by sea-level rise in the coming century.

The Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming: A Paradise Lost for Hunters, Anglers, and Outdoor Enthusiasts? - September 2007
NWF analyzed the many global warming impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.

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