Fingerprints of Sea Level Rise on Changing Tides in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays


Secular tidal trends are present in many tide gauge records, but their causes are often unclear. This study examines trends in tides over the last century in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Statistical models show negative M2 amplitude trends at the mouths of both bays, while some upstream locations have insignificant or positive trends. To determine whether sea level rise is responsible for these trends, we include a term for mean sea level in the statistical models and compare the results with predictions from numerical and analytical models. The observed and predicted sensitivities of M2 amplitude and phase to mean sea level are similar, although the numerical model amplitude is less sensitive to sea level. The sensitivity occurs as a result of strengthening and shifting of the amphidromic system in the Chesapeake Bay and decreasing frictional effects and increasing convergence in the Delaware Bay. After accounting for the effect of sea level, significant negative background M2 and S2 amplitude trends are present; these trends may be related to other factors such as dredging, tide gauge errors, or river discharge. Projected changes in tidal amplitudes due to sea level rise over the 21st century are substantial in some areas, but depend significantly on modeling assumptions.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans