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Chesapeake Bay Observing System

The Chesapeake Bay Observing System's Chesapeake inundation prediction system: Predicting the next storm surge flood, a regional prototype to address a national problem

By Michael T. Koterba (USGS) and Barry Stamey (Noblis)


"Serving the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) data and information needs of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal ocean communities subregion"


"The importance of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes cannot be overstated; they are critical to the very existence and well being of the Nation and its people. Yet, as the 21st century dawns, it is clear that these invaluable and life-sustaining assets are vulnerable to the activities of humans...


High-quality accessible information is critical to making wise decisions about ocean and coastal resources and their uses to guarantee sustainable social, economic, and environmental benefits from the sea...

A widespread network (IOOS) of observing and monitoring stations provides a steady stream of data. Scientific findings are translated into practical information and products for decision makers, vessel operators, educators, and the public." (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004 available at:

CBOS Subregional Observing System Association

The Chesapeake Bay (the Bay) is the largest inner-coastal estuary in the Nation. The Bay watershed covers 166,534 km2, and includes the District of Columbia and parts of six states- New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Virginia. More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the Bay. About 15 million people live within this watershed.

The main stem of the Bay from the Susquehanna River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south is about 304 km wide. At its narrowest point near Annapolis, Maryland, the Bay is 6.4 km wide; at its widest point, near the mouth of the Potomac River, it is 50 km wide. Total shoreline for the Bay is 18,804 km, and the surface area of the Bay and its major tributaries is 11,600 km2.

The Chesapeake Bay Subregion is the geographic observing domain of the Chesapeake Bay Observing System (CBOS), and consists of the Chesapeake and Maryland Coastal Bay Watersheds and the shore near ocean and coastlines of southern Delaware, eastern Maryland, and northern Virginia. As an organization, CBOS members reflect data and information providers and users. Their goal is to create and supply integrated observations, data management and distribution systems, and derived products that clearly meet user-specific needs. Users needs encompass commercial, management, recreational, educational, scientific, regulatory, safety, hazard protection, and restoration interests in the Bay subregion inner-coastal and coastal communities.

What is the Current Status of CBOS?

CBOS is an evolving sub-regional, coastal ocean observing system and organization:

CBOS logo

How Will CBOS Develop?

By aiding your organization in partnering and collaborating with IOOS Federal Backbone, State and District agencies, industry, academic and research institutions, and non-profit organizations, to forge CBOS as an "Observing System of Systems" based on CBOS prototype development efforts! Current CBOS members include:

CBOS members

Prototype Development

Chesapeake Inundation Prediction System (CIPS)... A 24-hour forecast prediction of storm surge and inundation for the chesapeake Bay...

Satellite image of Hurricane Isabel

In 2005-06, a clearly identified and described need arose for CBOS via the local National Weather Services Offices (Wakefield and Sterling, VA) and a CBOS-sponsored workshop in Baltimore, MD for Bay Emergency Managers (EMs):

Provide a 24-48 hour visual (GIS compatible) forecast of water-level inundation for a tropical cyclonic or nor-easter, which includes storm (oceanic) surge, bay tide, and river discharge for street-by-street flooding with 0.3 meter vertical contours, and quantified uncertainty, that is accompanied by high-resolution (2-4 kilometer scale) wind-field forecasts.

CIPS and Hurricane Isabel

By late 2006,, selected CBOS partners, including USGS, had developed a first-order prototype of CIPS using Hurricane Isabel and the City of Alexandria, VA, on the Upper Potomac River.

In July 2007, and with EMs support, CBOS secured funds to develop CIPS for the Bay.

CIPS storyboard

On October 1, 2007, CBOS began a three-year project to:

  1. Provide CIPS to the NWS as an ensemble (four wind-field models and two hydro-dynamic models) storm surge - inundation forecast capability with uncertainty,
  2. Develop CBOS observational support capability to run CIPS,
  3. Perform above with ongoing input from EMs, and
  4. Determine the economic value of CIPS.

Data to validate overland flooding projected by CIPS for the Bay, and particularly in urban settings, will be met by USGS rapid sensor development programs.

For More Information

Visit and/or contact:

Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director, CBOS
Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography,
Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23508
Email: exsmith@odu.ed

Dr. Michael Koterba, Chair, CBOS Affiliates (Feds)
U. S. Geological Survey
5522 Research Park Drive
Baltimore, MD 21228

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