The death of 2 million fish in Chesapeake Bay isn’t a sign of apocalypse, historical or otherwise, but it does offer a chance to consider what could happen if colder winters become routine in the eastern United States.
Some climatologists have proposed that, paradoxically, a warming Arctic will actually push cold air south, producing patterns like the one believed to have caused the Chesapeake fish kill.
If cold snaps grow deeper even as year-round temperatures rise, Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystems would adapt — but perhaps not, as is usually forecast, through the northward migration of warm-loving species, but by favoring species that can handle extremes.
“The long-term makeup of ecological communities is more driven by extremes than average conditions,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University. “Whatever can survive the extreme makes it in the long-term.”
The Chesapeake Bay fish kill was the latest in a series of animal die-offs to gain attention — and more than a little hysteria — after the dramatic New Year’s Eve death of 5,000 red-winged blackbirds over Beebe, Arkansa,s and the subsequent report of 100,000 drum fish dying in the Arkansas River.