To the left is a satellite image of the Chesapeake Bay area. The black line superimposed on the satellite image marks the boundary of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The grey image on the right shows the details of Chesapeake Bay.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of USGS (United States Geological Survey
Chesapeake Bay is the largest of 130 estuaries in the United States. Rivers
, streams and ground water
drain into Chesapeake Bay where this fresh water mixes with the salt water from the Atlantic Ocean
. This mixing of fresh water and salt water
is what makes this an estuary
Chesapeake Bay is shallow. It is only 21 feet deep on average. The Bay stretches from Havre De Grace, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia. The Bay itself is about 200 miles long, but the Bay along with its tributaries has a shoreline that measures approximately 11,684 miles in total. The Bay is very narrow at points (only 3.4 miles across near Aberdeen, Maryland). The Bay's widest point is 35 miles across near the mouth of the Potomac River.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed is large. It covers approximately 64,000 square miles and includes parts of six states, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, and all of the District of Columbia. The black line superimposed on the satellite image to the left marks the boundry of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Estuaries are unique places where life thrives! Chesapeake Bay is no exception! The Bay watershed is home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. Plant and animal populations in the Bay water vary with changes in clarity, dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature and human impacts to the water. After all, the watershed is also home to 15.1 million people.
Humans have a huge effect on the water quality of Chesapeake Bay. According to the Chesapeake Bay program, " each time a person uses electricity, drives a car or even drops a piece of trash, a chain of events that can affect the Bay occurs. Today, the biggest stressors on the ecosystem are excess nutrients, toxic/chemical contamination, air pollution and landscape changes." Organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay program are trying to boost awareness of human impacts on the Bay area. They are also trying to get people involved in restoring the Bay. Along the lines of restoring and studying the Bay as a system, there are many universities, companies and schools taking measurements of the water in the Bay. One such program is the HIGH TIDE program that involves area high schools that are making measurements of the water in the Bay in order to note changes in salinity, temperature and density.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, available in our online store
, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
You might also be interested in:
What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more
Most of the water we are aware of is in ponds, rivers, oceans, streams, lakes, puddles, and other places on top of the ground. What we don’t see is the water that soaks into the ground. Water that has...more
Earth's ocean covers more than 70% of our planet's surface. There are five major ocean basins. The Pacific Ocean is the largest. It’s so large that it covers a third of the Earth's surface. The Atlantic...more
An estuary is an unique environment where fresh water and salt water come together. Estuaries are found on the coast where a river or bay or other source of fresh water has access to the open sea. A good...more
Chesapeake Bay and its watershed support more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals. 2,700 species of plants alone live in the Chesapeake Bay area. These plants serve as the backbone for the foodchain...more
With over 2 million species classified into 30 phyla, Kingdom Animalia surpasses the other 4 kingdoms in terms of its species diversity. But when you think of an "animal", what image comes to mind? While...more
One way to measure how much dissolved salt is in water is to look at the concentration of salt in the water. Concentration is the amount (by weight) of salt in water and can be expressed in parts per million...more
Most of the solar radiation (light and heat) that hits the ocean is absorbed in the first few tens of meters of water. Waves and turbulence mix this heat downward quickly. The surface layer of the ocean...more