The Center for Atmospheric Sciences | » APS Professor teams with USGS, NOAA and Virginia Tech to Study Land Subsidence

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  • APS Professor teams with USGS, NOAA and Virginia Tech to Study Land Subsidence

    Jonathan Nash at HMT2

    Scientists from the USGS are collaborating with NOAA National Geodetic Survey, Virginia Tech, Maryland Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, Hampton University, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, and the Delaware Geological Survey to measure land-surface subsidence at the rate of a few millimeters per year in the Chesapeake Bay. The purpose of the USGS-led effort is to better isolate short-term changes in land subsidence due to human activities, from long-term geologic signals due to glacial cycles and deep Earth processes. Identifying the short-term changes will provide insights into ways localities can manage and use aquifers to reduce land subsidence.

    Dr. William Moore of the Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences was part of the original team that piloted this project. Two stations were installed in 2018, one at Hampton University (Turner Hall) and one at the National Institute of Aerospace. These stations have been re-surveyed each year since. The multi-year effort will determine the rate at which parts of the Hampton Roads region are subsiding.

    Rates and locations of land subsidence change over time so accurate measurements and predictive tools are needed to improve the understanding of its causes. Land subsidence can increase flooding, alter wetland and coastal ecosystems, and damage infrastructure and historical sites. Because land subsidence contributes to relative sea-level rise in the region, it is important for regional planners to understand why, where, and how fast it is occurring, now and in the future.

    Most scientists agree that relative sea-level in the southern Chesapeake Bay region is rising at rates upwards of 5 mm/yr. Despite being measured in millimeters, when changes in sea-level are compounded over 80 years or even forecasted into the next century, major cities such as Washington D.C. and Baltimore, as well as the port of Norfolk, are at risk. Results of this study will help inform resiliency plans for these cities.

    Installing HMT1

    Janelle Layton installing the GPS monument on Turner Hall in 2018.