High Tide in Dorchester
complicate my journalistic attempts at simple explanations of what’s happening on the Chesapeake, I turn to “Dr. Tide.” Bill Boicourt is an oceanographer emeritus with the University of Maryland and a lifelong kayaking buddy.
talking about the land sinking and humans changing the climate.” We talked some more, and she gave us an inter v iew about how forests that once blocked her view of her church were gone now, about how the tide seemed to come over the land so much more frequently. Many other people just did not want to get into the notion of the seas rising; but yes, erosion did seem to have gotten worse than ever, some said. Many are watermen, the Chesapeake term for commercial fisherman. They believe what they see, focus on where to fish tomorrow, not on the century ahead. “They’re not wrong about erosion. It’s happening very quickly and it is very noticeable,” said Mike Scott, an environmental hazards expert in the geography depar tment at Salisbury University, one county over from Dorchester. “Sea level rise at this point, unlike erosion, is happening very slowly. . . slight enough up to now that it’s actually very difficult to measure unless you’re taking very precise measurements.” But the two processes are not separate, Scott explains. R ising seas make erosion worse, and the former is accelerating dramatically as melting glaciers in places like Antarctica have begun augmenting thermal expansion of the oceans. Whenever I want a scientist to
Bill Boicourt He starts with how sea level’s not at all level. The ocean in Bermuda’s about a meter h ig her t ha n t he ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake; also, the earth’s rotation, the strengthening and weakening of the Gulf Stream, prevailing winds, long-term pressure-temperature oscillations and the like can all cause tides in the Bay to be higher or lower than average for days, even years ~ even cause sea level to appear to be falling for some periods. Combine that with the training of scientists like Boicourt to argue with one another, always challeng36
Tidewater Times April 2018