New Orleans has battled severe weather in the form of hurricanes and floods, and new research shows that the city is sinking on top of everything else. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Center for GeoInformaticsat Louisiana State teamed up to create maps revealing the steady sinking of New Orleans. According to NASA, the study is the “most spatially extensive” thus far and includes data from 2009 through 2012.
Based on radar data, the maps show that human and natural causes are leading to subsidence, another word for sinking used in the study published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. NASA noted that the results, which at their height demonstrated rates of sinking at 2 inches per year, are similar but slightly greater than research in years past.
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The study revealed that “major industrial areas” in Michoud and Norco exemplify the fastest rates of subsidence. In addition, what NASA describes as the “last line of protection” against flooding in the spring, the Bonnet Carré Spillway, is sinking at a rate of 1.6 inches per year.
According to Gizmodo, while those numbers don’t sound too drastic, built up over time they could lead to worse flooding even as ocean levels rise due to climate change.
So what factors are causing the sinking? The study offers several suggestions but most notably, the scientists think dewatering, or draining flooded places, and groundwater pumping are most to blame.
They hope their study can help inform policy makers who work to protect the people of New Orleans. Lead author Cathleen Jones of NASA said, “Agencies can use these data to more effectively implement actions to remediate and reverse the effects of subsidence, improving the long-term coastal resiliency and sustainability of New Orleans. The more recent land elevation change rates from this study will be used to inform flood modeling and response strategies, improving public safety.”
Images via NASA