Why is Chesapeake Bay region sinking?

WASHINGTON — Due to an ice sheet that changed the landscape of the D.C. region thousands of years ago, the land below your feet is literally sinking.

“It’s something that we really need to plan for,” says University of Vermont geologist Paul Bierman.

Bierman is part of a team of researchers that released a study on the issue.

The research was published in the journal GSA Today.

“The land is slowly but surely going down,” Bierman says.

A massive ice sheet was located north of D.C. until roughly 20,000 years ago.

Before the ice disappeared, it caused the land across the D.C. area to rise. Now that it is gone, the area has been sinking.

“It’s the place that went up the most when the ice sheet was sitting to the north, and it’s now the place that is dropping the most,” says Bierman.

Pointing to a warming climate and changes in sea-levels, researchers warn about the possibility of increased flooding problems.

“Our hope is that this information will be used in such a way as to minimize the damage in the future and protect the nation’s assets,” Bierman says.

According to the study, the D.C. area is expected to sink 6 to 8 inches over the next century.

Researchers involved in the study are from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Vermont, Utah State University, the Berkeley Geochronology Center and London’s Imperial College.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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