HAMPTON, Va. (October 19, 2020) – Dr. William B. Moore, Associate Professor in the Hampton University Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, along with several students, is part of a group of scientists that piloted and developed a land subsidence survey project. The purpose of the project is to better isolate short-term changes in land subsidence due to human activities from long-term geological signals due to glacial cycles and deep Earth processes.
“This project is a wonderful collaboration between several agencies to better understand land subsidence and prepare for future conditions. Dr. William Moore and the Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences continue to facilitate learning for our Hamptonians through hands-on and invaluable experiences, while simultaneously changing the world,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.
This project is studying the Chesapeake Bay region due to it having the highest rate of relative sea-level rise on the Atlantic Coast. “We are using GPS to measure the rate at which the ground is subsiding all around the Chesapeake Bay due to a variety of factors. The fact that the ground is going down, while the sea is coming up, is exacerbating the effects of sea-level rise in Hampton Roads, making this one of the worst affected parts of the country,” Dr. Moore said.
The project, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA National Geodetic Survey, Hampton University, Virginia Tech, Maryland Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, and the Delaware Geological Survey, is a unique effort bringing academic researchers together with federal and state agencies to measure land-surface subsidence at the rate of a few millimeters per year in the Chesapeake Bay.
Two stations were installed in 2018, one at Hampton University on top of 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.
Hampton University students have also had the opportunity to get involved with the project. “This field definitely interests me so I am eager to learn more, which is why I am excited to be involved in this project. This project’s purpose is to observe the subsidence occurring in the Hampton Roads area. People may not know this, but the sea level around Hampton is actually rising. This is due to a multitude of reasons but the main reason is because the land is actually sinking, so we are trying to collect data on this subsidence which can be used in a variety of ways. To do this, we set up GPS stations in specific areas to monitor the changes over a fixed period of time. From the data we collect, we can create models or graphs to show how much the land is subsiding and possibly show the reasons why this subsidence is occurring,” said Jonathan Nash, a sophomore Marine and Environmental Science major from Phoenix, AZ.
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 decades or forecast 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.