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Thursday, July 3, 2014

New websites show the scary effects rising sea levels will have on New Orleans

Posted By on Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 2:20 PM

A projection of what New Orleans would look like if sea levels rose one meter
  • A projection of what New Orleans would look like if sea levels rose one meter

Via the Washington Post comes this scary image of what downtown New Orleans would possibly look like if global sea levels rose by a meter. As you can see, tailgating for Saints games will become an amphibious affair. The map was produced by the Tumblr site #DrownYourTown and you can check out what could potentially happen to cities like New York City, Washington D.C. and even inland metro areas like Pittsburgh.

Granted, the #DrownYourTown maps happen to forecast mostly worst-case scenarios for most cities. The New Orleans map is modeled on a one-meter rise in sea level, which according to the EPA won't happen until after the year 2050. But before you go dismissing these images as internet fear-mongering, remember that this is actually old news for Louisiana. As The Lens reported in February 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that Louisiana will see the "highest level of sea-level rise on the planet".

The entire article is worth a read if you want a quick, albeit sort of depressing, look at the future of Louisiana's coastline. But while disappearing wetlands has long been a concern to this state, severe weather over the past two decades has prompted other states to adopt more sophisticated coastline mapping technologies. Per the Post article:

After Hurricane Floyd practically leveled the [North Carolina] in 1999, the state legislature ponied up cash to become the first state in the nation mapped through a new process called lidar.

Lidar — which stands for Light Detection and Ranging — uses airborne lasers to examine the surface of the earth and produce uncommonly detailed and accurate elevation maps. The technology is so revolutionary, it has been credited with locating the legendary Lost City of the Monkey God in an otherwise impenetrable Central American rain forest.

North Carolina is not alone in trying to map out and plan for rising sea levels. In January 2013, Virginia commissioned a study on the potential dangers posed to the state by rising sea levels. In addition, the NOAA has its own interactive map that displays lidar measurements and helps people gauge property damage caused by rising sea levels, though it takes some patience to figure out. Climate Central's Surging Seas website has a simpler version with a clearer picture of what would happen to the New Orleans metro area.

Unfortunately, all of these maps have one thing in common: they show New Orleans being scarily susceptible to serious damage due to rising sea levels. Considering the type of flooding this city seas during heavy rains, it's enough to make you run for the hills (if we had any to run to, that is).

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