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NCBO Monitors Plume Location

Soon after record rainfall from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee (early September) caused flooding around the Chesapeake Bay watershed, NOAA and its partners started to monitor the concentration and movement of a plume of sediment-laden water making its way down the Bay. Good weather—with few clouds—earlier in the month let scientists track the plume’s location using analysis of satellite images.

More recently, cloudy conditions have meant that scientists have used other techniques to track the plume. One method the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office field team uses is to sample Bay water using a sensor from on board a NOAA boat. The sensor detects water quality parameters including salinity (how salty the water is) and turbidity (how much “stuff,” like the sediment in the plume, is suspended in the water) from the water’s surface down to the Bay bottom.

On September 20, the NCBO field team sampled water at a number of locations on a research trip from Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, east across the Bay and north to Bloody Point (the southern end of Kent Island). While earlier water sampling had shown high concentrations of sediment in the water near the surface, this day of sampling showed less sediment in surface waters but more further down in the water column. In addition, high concentrations of sediment throughout the water did not appear to be making further progress south.

It appears that the sediment seems to be settling toward the Bay bottom; scientists currently do not anticipate the plume will advance toward Virginia.

While scientists will continue to monitor the plume’s extent and concentration, they are also turning their attention to longer-term effects of the settling sediment on the Bay’s living resources and habitats.

For more information on NCBO, NOAA, and partner research on the plume and other effects of heavy rainfall in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, see: