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New Orleans
Image: NASA

New Orleans is sinking

New Orleans – a city that is already below sea level – is sinking much faster than was previously believed; and it isn’t just climate change that is responsible.  New research published in The Journal of Geophysical Research found that the city is sinking by 2 inches (5 cm) per year.

Sea level rise and severe weather events are already known risk factors in a city that is still coming to terms with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that hit eleven years ago.  However, these are not the only factors causing the city to sink.  According to the paper’s authors, who include scientists from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of California at Los Angeles and Louisiana State University, industrial extraction of water, oil and gas have also contributed to sinking land in the area.

Cities like New Orleans and Miami Beach (where the drainage system is below sea level) are the canaries in the mine, signalling a sea level crisis that will eventually impact 85 percent of the towns and cities on Earth.  The question is no longer if this is going to happen, but when?

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