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NOAA Sentinel Site Program

Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative

The formal NOAA Sentinel Site Cooperative Program has ended, however, Sea Grant offices at the corresponding cooperative locations continue work in these areas. For more information please visit Maryland Sea GrantNorth Carolina Sea GrantMississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, and Hawaii Sea Grant.


The Chesapeake Bay area, located in NOAA’s Northeast Region, provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the benefit of integrating existing sentinel stations and sentinel sites into NOAA’s Sentinel Site Program. The Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative provides integrated observations across a host of environmental monitoring programs within the Bay area. The goal of the cooperative is to provide information to Chesapeake Bay communities and managers who need to address challenges such as storm flooding, long term, local sea level rise, barrier island movement, degraded water quality, and wetland loss. The information will also be useful to federal and state restoration planners and living resource managers who are addressing these challenges.

Focus Areas

Monitoring surface elevation, subsidence rates, water quality, vegetation, and living resources at sentinel sites; networking sentinel site data with Bay-wide monitoring stations; sea level rise prediction and planning tools; community education and outreach.

Available Assets:

  • Twenty NOAA tide stations, including 14 National Water Level Observing system gauges with long term sea level trends available
  • Numerous historic tide gauge datasets and water level observations from other agencies (e.g. U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service)
  • Over 30 active Continuously Operating GPS Reference Stations within 20 miles of the coast or coastal estuaries, including one co-located at a National Water Level Observation Network tide station (Solomon’s Island)
  • Over 50 surface elevation table datasets connected to the National Spatial Reference System for monitoring wetland elevation change (over 200 surface elevation table datasets available through sister agencies, including over one hundred sites within Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge)
  • Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System —a full 3D coastal hydrodynamic model for tides, currents, and storm surge developed by NOS Office of Coast Survey
  • Nested hydrodynamic model for Poplar Island—based on a nested grid within the Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System, Poplar Island is a model for how local sea level rise impacts can be included within a cutting-edge physical hydrodynamic model
  • NOAA Vertical Datum—sea surface topography model defined for entire Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast, used to estimate locally defined tidal datums such as mean sea level
  • Local high accuracy geodetic control networks with permanent survey markers within seven sites across the Bay (four in Virginia; three in Maryland)
  • NOAA Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System—a network of Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) based observing platforms that transmit information using wireless technology to a variety of users
  • Chesapeake Bay Observing System (federal, state, university, bay-wide collaborative effort)
  • Wetland elevation monitoring along fire management regimes at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with NOAA, using GPS technology)
  • Southern Chesapeake Bay Shallow Water Quality Monitoring Program
  • Virginia Estuarine and Coastal Observing System—website designed to distribute water quality data sampled from the Chesapeake Bay and associated tributaries within Virginia
  • Marsh community assessments (e.g. species distribution, abundance, and diversity) in numerous wetland habitats, from coastal salt marshes to tidal fresh marshes
  • Marsh productivity (e.g. above and below ground biomass) within seven National Estuarine Research Reserve sites
  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation surveys within seven National Estuarine Research Reserve sites
  • Extensive benthic habitat survey data
  • Nekton productivity (e.g. recruitment)
  • Ground water dynamics in seven wetland National Estuarine Research Reserve sites
  • NOAA Coast Watch (East Coast Node)—disseminating satellite imagery data, including models of chlorophyll, turbidity, and water temperature
  • Watershed-scale habitat mapping and change analysis at Virginia and Maryland Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves
  • Enhancement of local U.S. Geological Survey/Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences York River sea level rise and salt intrusion hydrodynamic model
  • Vital signs monitoring of estuarine conditions at three Virginia National Park Service Parks.
  • Historical analysis of wetland change: Geographical Information System study quantifying wetland change/loss over time (Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, VA)
  • Comprehensive assessment of areas sensitive to coastal flooding
  • Poplar Island case study for including sea level rise predictions in wetland creation/restoration—a multiagency collaboration to address this critical need in the restoration community

Partners (Currently Involved):


Other Agencies and Organizations