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Sea-Level Rise and Subsidence: Implications for Flooding in New Orleans, Louisiana By Virginia R. Burkett, David B. Zilkoski, and David A. Hart Abstract Global sea-level rise is projected to acceler­ate two- to four-fold during the next century,increasing storm surge and shoreline retreat along low-lying, Water Damaged Carpet Smell unconsolidated coastal margins. 

TheMississippi River Deltaic Plain in southeasternLouisiana is particularly vulnerable to erosion and Water Damaged Carpet Smell inundation due to the rapid deterioration of coastalbarriers combined with relatively high rates of landsubsidence. 

Land-surface altitude data collectedin the leveed areas of the New Orleans metropoli­tan region during five survey epochs between 1951 and 1995 indicated mean annual subsidenceof 5 millimeters per year. Preliminary results of other studies detecting the regional movement ofthe north-central Gulf Coast indicate that the rate Water Damaged Carpet Smell may be as much as 1 centimeter per year. 

Con­sidering the rate of subsidence and the mid-rangeestimate of sea-level rise during the next 100 years(480 millimeters), the areas of New Orleans and Water Damaged Carpet Smell vicinity that are presently 1.5 to 3 meters belowmean sea level will likely be 2.5 to 4.0 meters ormore below mean sea level by 2100.

Subsidence of the land surface in the NewOrleans region is also attributed to the drainageand oxidation of organic soils, aquifer-systemcompaction related to ground-water withdrawals, Water Damaged Carpet Smell natural compaction and dewatering of surficial sed­iments, and tectonic activity (geosynclinal downwarping and movement along growth faults). 

The problem is aggravated owing to flood-protection measures and disruption of natural drainagewaysthat reduce sediment deposition in the New Orleansarea.1 U.S. Geological Survey, Lafayette, La.2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Water Damaged Carpet Smell National Geodetic Survey, Silver Spring, Md.3 University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.

Accelerated sea-level rise, the presentaltitude of the city, Water Damaged Carpet Smell and high rates of land subsid­ence portend serious losses in property in the New Orleans area unless flood-control levees andpumping stations are upgraded. 

The restorationand maintenance of barrier islands and wetlandsthat flank New Orleans to the south Water Damaged Carpet Smell and east areother adaptations that have the potential to reducethe loss of life and property due to flooding. 

Accu­rate monitoring of subsidence is needed to providecalibration data for modeling and predicting sub­sidence in coastal Louisiana, Water Damaged Carpet Smell as well as for supportfor constructing and maintaining infrastructureand levees. GPS technology is being tested in theNew Orleans region as a means for more frequent,less expensive subsidence monitoring.

Accelerated sea-level rise is regarded as one ofthe most costly and most certain consequences of globalwarming. If sea-level rise increases at rates projected bythe United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Cli­mate Change (2001) during the next century, Water Damaged Carpet Smell many ofthe world’s low-lying coastal zones and river deltascould be inundated. 

Several of the world’s most heavilypopulated coastal cities are particularly vulnerable toinundation due to human interactions with deltaic pro­cesses. Such is the case in the New Orleans metropoli­tan area, where more than 1 million people are protectedfrom river floods and storm surge by levees and pump­ing stations, Water Damaged Carpet Smell and where the land is gradually sinking atrates that exceed 20th century sea-level rise.

GEOMORPHOLOGIC SETTINGMost of the present landmass of southeast Louisi­ana was formed by deltaic processes of the MississippiRiver. Over the past 7,000 years, Water Damaged Carpet Smell during a period ofrelatively small fluctuations in sea level, the riverdeposited massive volumes of sediment in five deltaic complexes that now lie in various stages of abandon­ment (, 1967). 

The Chandeleur Island chain that liesto the southeast of the city of New Orleans is an ero­sional feature of one of these ancient deltas. A com­bination of levees, diversion structures, Water Damaged Carpet Smell and reducedsuspended sediment discharge have essentially haltedthe aggradation of the Mississippi River delta in south­east Louisiana.

Levees constructed along the banks of the Missis­sippi River from Cairo, Ill., to Venice, La., Water Damaged Carpet Smell (about 30 kmsouth of New Orleans) prevent the flooding of the adja­cent land by sediment-laden river water, halting the dep­ositional processes that naturally maintained thealtitude of the land surface in southeast Louisiana abovesea level. 

Three large diversion structures constructedupriver near Simmesport, La., Water Damaged Carpet Smell now route up to one-thirdof the water and sediment load from the MississippiRiver westward into the Atchafalaya River to protectNew Orleans, Baton Rouge, and many other cities insoutheast Louisiana from flooding. 

The volume of sed­iment delivered by the Mississippi River to Louisiana Water Damaged Carpet Smell has been reduced by almost one-half since 1950 by the construction of reservoirs on the major tributaries of the Mississippi River (Meade, 1995).

Most of the land surface of the New Orleans Met­ropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), a region that includesall or parts of seven parishes, Water Damaged Carpet Smell is sinking or "subsiding”relative to mean sea level. 

Subsidence of the land sur­face in the New Orleans region is also attributed to thedrainage and oxidation of organic soils (Earle, 1975), Water Damaged Carpet Smell aquifer-system compaction related to ground-waterwithdrawals, natural compaction anddewatering of surficial sediments, and tectonic activity (geosynclinal downwarping andmovement along growth faults).

SUBSIDENCE AND SEA-LEVEL TRENDS Observations of local Water Damaged Carpet Smell subsidence in the NewOrleans region were derived from precise leveling data collected by the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) dur­ing 1951–55, 1964, 1984–85, 1990–91, and 1995. 

Thesubsidence network included a total of 341 benchmarks.Land-surface altitude data sets for each epoch (timeperiod between surveys) were prepared using a mini­mum constraint least squares adjustment tied to a Water Damaged Carpet Smell benchmark in eastern Orleans Parish (Zilkoskiand Reese, 1986). 

Files containing the location ofbenchmarks and the differences in adjusted heightswere converted into ArcView shapefiles and projectedinto Louisiana State Plane Coordinates, Water Damaged Carpet Smell South ZoneNAD83, in feet. The annual rate of subsidence at each benchmark was determined by dividing the differencesin adjusted heights by the number of years betweenleveling.

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