With 3,190 miles of coastline, Maryland has a very large shore, and changing waterways could affect many homes throughout the state.
Coastal erosion rates are especially concerning in Maryland because the effects can be seen in a few years or decades. As the waves and tides carry away protective dunes and marshes, more properties will be more exposed to storm surges, high tides, and flood damage.
We wanted to know exactly how Maryland’s coastline will change this century. By relying on a recent scientific analysis, we’re able to identify the worst places in Maryland for coastal erosion.
How Will Erosion Change the Maryland Coastline?
Erosion is nothing new, and in Maryland, we see historical examples of how erosion has affected coastal construction.
When the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse was built in 1824, it was 100 feet away from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. However, the site was susceptible to erosion, and within 14 years, the water was within 15 feet of the tower. That degree of water change would be devastating if it happened near your home.
By the end of the century, Maryland’s shoreline will look much different than it does right now.
Coastal erosion rates are influenced by a range of factors, including the force of the waves, the shape of the sea floor, the steepness of the shoreline, and more. With so many variables at play, erosion rates can be much different from beach to beach.
Which Maryland Shorelines Have the Worst Erosion?
A 2020 peer-reviewed study from the Joint Research Center of the European Commission revealed what the coast will look like at the end of the century. After compiling 35 years of satellite imagery, 82 years of climate data, and input from 100 million storm simulations, researchers determined which areas of Maryland’s coast will be hit the hardest.
In Baltimore, shorelines will recede by 141 yards in 80 years. However, the shores in Dorchester County on the east side of the Chesapeake will be nearly a quarter of a mile narrower.
Researchers have identified which Maryland counties will see the biggest changes from coastal erosion.
Worst Coastal Erosion in Maryland (Average Shoreline Erosion in 80 Years)
- Dorchester County, MD: -404 yards
- Somerset County, MD: -342 yards
- Kent County, MD: -326 yards
- Harford County, MD: -282 yards
- Charles County, MD: -255 yards
- Cecil County, MD: -249 yards
These average figures are the baseline shore levels. During a hurricane or storm, the tides will be much higher, and flooding will extend farther inland without the protection of the beaches.
Why Is Coastal Erosion So Bad in Dorchester County, Maryland?
In the lowlands of Dorchester County, flooding is already overtaking communities. Tidewaters rise up through storm drains and overtake riverbanks. Flooded roads are common. And residents watch tide schedules to time daily activities like school bus routes and where you can park a vehicle.
The flat and marshy landscape makes it especially vulnerable to sea-level rise. Yale scientists have called Dorchester County “ground zero for climate change.”
But even while sea-level change is happening slowly, erosion is happening quickly.
The onslaught of waves erodes away protective marshland, exposing the region to more flooding. And with high exposure to hurricane storm surge, a bad storm can accelerate erosion rates even more. This tour of Dorchester County reveals what it’s like living with flooded streets, waterlogged home foundations, and an eroding landscape.
Will Coastal Erosion Cause Widespread Flooding?
Throughout Maryland, the changing coastline could put many homes at risk of flooding in the coming decades. Homeowners on the waterfront aren’t the only people who should be concerned. Water systems throughout the area will be reimagined, and flooding could affect many more parts of the state.
Even urban areas of Baltimore could face a regular risk of flooding. A report from NOAA predicts that by the end of the century, high-tide flooding will occur about every other day in areas across the Mid-Atlantic.
To put that in context, here’s what it looked like when coastal flooding overtook the streets of Annapolis in April 2020.
Attribution: @dcmdvaweather – Twitter
When it comes to flooding, preventive home upgrades can go a long way toward helping you mitigate property damage and protect your house. For example, a one-inch flood in a home can cause $25,000 worth of damage. Comparatively, water protection systems like a sump pump, waterproofing, or flood vents can help you protect your structure and quickly remove any floodwaters to avoid secondary issues like mold.
What’s the best way to protect your home from flooding? Schedule a free inspection from JES Foundation Repair to learn about how to protect your property from regional water threats.