Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:25 PM


LADE, Andrew John, Loyola University, Environmental Program, New Orleans, LA 70118,

Sea level rise and increased storm frequency associated with climate change could cause dramatic changes in low-lying, coastal regions. Southeast Louisiana is a topographically low, deltaic plain situated on the northern Gulf of Mexico. Extremely low elevations, high populations, and geographic location on a common storm path make this region highly vulnerable to inundation by sea level rise and storm surges. In order to effectively prepare for flooding events, the risk of the region ought to be determined. Combining economic, social, and environmental factors, risk can be quantified. The aim of the project is to create a coastal vulnerability index (CVI), which combines environmental and human factors, in order to create an accurate southeast Louisiana risk assessment map (SEL- RAM). Elevation, land use-land cover, and population data were combined to create a vulnerability index, with topographically low areas, highly urbanized areas, and highly populated areas having the highest risk levels. SEL-RAM shows the New Orleans area at the highest risk due to extremely low elevation (<0 m), intense urbanization, and high population density. 1 and 2 meter(s) of sea level rise were overlain on the elevation map, demonstrating a loss of 1/3 of the local land-mass with a 1-meter rise and a loss of 1/2 of the local land-mass with a 2-meter rise. Overall, SEL-RAM combines three integral attributes of coastal risk and provides insight into the overall vulnerability of the region. With the risk values, we can begin to assess what level of loss and damage can be expected from sea level rise scenarios and where resources should be concentrated in case of emergency. Our primary hopes for SEL-RAM are to effectively communicate environmental risks to the public and to encourage economically viable actions to sustain coastal communities in southeast Louisiana.