The Chesapeake Bay - America's largest estuary, with a watershed that reaches into seven states - will be profoundly affected by climate change. The nature and severity of those effects will, in turn, be influenced by human activities such as agriculture, land development and chemical emissions. In such complex circumstances, government and business leaders need an entirely new class of climate information products in order to make the best possible choices.
The Chesapeake Bay Forecast System (CBFS), now in development at UMD/ESSIC, will fill that need. It is a flexible, end-to-end expert prediction tool for decision-makers that will provide customizable, user-specified forecasts showing multiple aspects of the region's climate, air and water quality, local chemistry and ecosystems months into the future. Users will be able to configure their own "what if" scenarios and then see the results of specific land-use choices, climate trends, development, demographics or environmental conditions on particular sections of the bay.
For example, this sample frame shows phosphate or nitrate concentrations in various parts of the bay as a function of the kinds of crops grown in different areas. A user could call up this page, "dial in" additional plantings of corn or soybeans on specific acreage, or substitute a poultry farm where there is now a hay field, and see the effect on dissolved nutrients in the water - concentrations which will in turn cause changes in the populations of sea nettles, algae, shellfish and other key components of the bay’s biology.
Alternatively, a user could select other settings and obtain predictions of fire risk, crab abundance, water quality in popular recreational areas, or other conditions of interest. Combining NOAA, USGS, NASA and USDA data, on-site sensors and satellite observations, CBFS datasets will be updated constantly to provide the most accurate projections as well as detailed "nowcasts" of current conditions. The system is in the process of being extensively tested, and is already capable of producing extremely accurate 16-day forecasts. Eventually CBFS will generate predictions over a range of days to decades, and will be exported for use in other parts of the United States or the world.
CBFS will accomplish its unique goals by integrating the predictive capabilities of four separate forecast models, each of which has different and distinctive strengths. Click on one of the boxes to see a description.