Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Chesapeake Bay Shore Erosion

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 Hurricane Isabel and Shore Erosion in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland page 8 of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 , 6, 7, 8    


  • The Western Shore of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay lost about 20 acres of fastland to erosion during Isabel -- a total of 158,800 metric tonnes of sediment. The influx of suspended sediment (silt and clay) from Western Shore erosion amounted to about 81,000 metric tonnes. Compared to the 31 million metric tonnes delivered by the Susquehanna River during Hurricane Agnes, Isabel's contribution, though substantial, was not overwhelming.
  • Generally, when coastal researchers and planners consider the future, they recognize two main scenarios: continued erosion of the shoreline in the face of sea level rise and permanent inundation of low-lying shoreline. Given the effects of Isabel, the first of these scenarios must include episodes of erosion due to short-lived storm surge flooding and, particularly, ebbing.
  • Severe as it was, erosion might have been worse. Given storm surge elevation, virtually the entire Western Shore was vulnerable. However, only1.5% of the total shoreline length experienced erosion.
  • Destructive as it was, Isabel might have been worse. Had the hurricane been stronger at landfall, the storm surge generated in the Chesapeake Bay might have been higher. Had Isabel stalled along its path and lingered through several tidal cycles, prolonged surge conditions, exacerbated by high winds, might have caused more severe erosion. Had rainfall been higher, bank erosion due to slope failure might have been more common, particularly given the wetter than normal months that preceded the hurricane.
  1. Maryland Department of Planning. 2004, Baltimore, MD, 29 p
  2. J. Stein (photographer), 2003, Anne Arundel Co. Soil Conservation District
  3. URS Group, Inc., 2003, Hurricane Isabel rapid response coastal high water mark (CHWM) collection, Gaithersburg, MD, 197 p
  4. J. Descloitres, 2003, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC,, (1/23/04)
  5. W. Shaffer, 2003, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  6. NOAA, Tides Online (
  7. St. Mary's County, 2003 Hurricane Isabel's Aftermath.
  8. T. Cronin, J. Halka, S. Phillips, and O. Bricker,. 2003, in M. Langland, and T. Cronin (eds.), U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03- 4123, pp. 49-60
  9. Baltimore Co. Dept. of Environmental Protection and Resource Management (DEPRM), 2003, Hurricane Isabel Building Permit Log
  10. S.Alexander (photographer), 2003, St. Mary's Co. Dept. of Public Works
  11. C. Croswell (photographer), 2003, Baltimore Co. DEPRM
  12. J.M. Hill, G. Wikel, D. Wells, L. Hennessee, and D. Sailsbury, D., 2003, Shoreline erosion as a source of sediments and nutrients, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, MGS, Baltimore, MD, 24 p
  13. J.R. Schubel, 1976, in The Effects of Tropical Storm Agnes on the Chesapeake Bay Estuarine System The Chesapeake Research Consortium, Inc. (ed.), The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, pp. 179-187
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