The Washington Post

Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee bruise the Chesapeake Bay

From NOAA: “... total suspended matter data acquired by the NASA Aqua satellite and processed by NOAA CoastWatch. Before (August 23rd) and after (September 11th) images show stark differences in the amount of suspended matter (silt, mud, debris) found in the waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Water conditions caused the modification of the Nation’s Triathlon held in DC on September 11th due to poor water quality, currents, and debris.” Larger image (NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

In today’s print edition of the Post, Darryl Fears writes:

Drenching rains from remnants of Lee produced the second-largest water flows from the Susquehanna River into the bay since Hurricane Agnes in June 1972. Flows from Agnes were measured at more than 1 million cubic feet per second. A major snow melt in 1996 caused a flow of more than 900,000 cubic feet per second. The peak flow from Lee was more than 750,000 cubic feet per second.

The flows constituted an expressway for pollution.

Fears describes all sorts of bad stuff washed into the Bay:

Satellite imagery of the Chesapeake Bay on August 23 and September 13. ( NASA )

* More than 500 million gallons of diluted sewage

* ...runoff from farms washed in livestock manure and fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous, and the flow from city and suburban streets, lawns and rooftops contributed more nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as garbage.

Or, as he describes it in short: a “pollution cocktail”. The concern is this pollution will create a “dead zone” this fall or enhance next summer’s. Fears’ article discusses these unpleasant prospects in additional detail.

Related link: Reducing stormwater pollution

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.


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