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EMNE: An Early Warning System for Tipping Points

An Early Warning System for Tipping Points 10. Jun 2017 09:33 #6089

In the summer of 1972, Hurricane Agnes swept up the East Coast of the United States. It was at the time the costliest hurricane in the U.S. history, and among the many things it damaged was the Chesapeake Bay. The storm flooded the watershed and sent a pulse of nutrient pollution—mainly nitrogen and phosphorous that ran off from farms and towns—streaming into the Bay.

Nutrient pollution is a problem in many estuaries because it can cause algal blooms that rob the water of oxygen and produce coastal dead zones. Until that storm the Chesapeake had managed to absorb the nutrients that ran off its fast developing watershed. But the pulse of pollution following Hurricane Agnes wiped out most of the seagrass in the Bay, precisely the plants that until then had absorbed the excess nutrients. As a result, even after pollution returned to pre-storm levels the Bay remained impaired.

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