Health of the Chesapeake Bay

October 22, 2002


Provided by: NASA/GSFC
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

The above composite satellite image of the northern portion of the Chesapeake Bay was taken with the Landsat Thematic Mapper using the shortwave infrared (TM band 5), infrared (TM band 4), and visible green (TM band 2) channels. On this image, the Patuxent River can be seen entering the Chesapeake Bay from the left (west), while the Choptank River enters the Bay from the right (east). Flowing into the Chesapeake from the north (top), the Susquehanna River supplies most of the fresh water to the Bay system. The deeper greens and browns at the lower right are wetland areas. To compose this image, data from two different scenes, October 2, 1997 and November 16, 1997, were merged and manipulated to give the "tilted" perspective.

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the richest and largest estuaries in the world. This inlet of the Atlantic Ocean is approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers) long and 3 to 30 miles (5 to 48 kilometers) wide. Although, the Chesapeake is a much cleaner body of water than it was 30 years ago, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the health of the Bay has not improved in recent years despite extensive restoration efforts and pacts signed by states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It could only muster a score of 27 on a 100 point scale, and it remains on the nations' dirty water list. In addition, the Bay's beleaguered shellfish population, including blue crabs, declined again this year.

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