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Extreme Weather Events XV: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events XV: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

New Orleans: photographed November 2005.

“We are flying over Plaquemines Parish, which our hosts, the US Army Corps of Engineers, refer to as “Ground Zero.” A finger-like peninsula claimed from the marshes that follows the Mississippi River and extends 80 miles south of the Crescent City.  In most places it is no more than eight miles wide and everywhere is lower than the water.  Fifteen-foot levees hold back the Mississippi on one side and the marsh on the other.  The progression of town names tells a story:  Port Sulphur, Empire, Triumph, Venice, Tidewater.  The land gradually tapers off into the sea after a final flourish of oil refineries, tankers, helicopters and spider web of roads.

“Three months ago the 40-mile wide eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over this spit of land, raised the water some twenty feet above the levees and completely devastated every one of these towns.  From the helicopter the destruction seems systematic, even artful.  Trees felled by the surging water lie stacked in gentle waves across the peninsula; fields of debris drape the marshes and fold against the levees; plastic bags of every color make strange fruit in a desiccated orchard; cemetery-like rows of empty lots memorialize swept-away houses . . .

“. . . The destructive power of a hurricane’s winds is fed by energy latent in the warmth of ocean waters.  As water temperatures heat up, many believe storms will become more violent and more frequent.  To make matters worse, the more violent the storm, the more marshland gets shredded, and the water gets even closer.  Katrina destroyed 100 square miles of marshland outside of New Orleans, according to the US Geological Survey.  Most of it will not grow back.  Throw global-warming induced sea-level rise into the mix, which threatens to wipe out as much as 40 percent of the United States’ coastal wetlands before the end of the century, and it is easy to see why more half of the 800,000 people that fled the city have not returned as of November, according to recent Department of Labor statistics . . .”  (From a February 2006 article for the Spanish publication “Mu” by Sayler/Morris.)

Additional reference on the link between climate change and storm intensity and/or frequency can be found here and here.  It is remains one of the more debated and uncertain aspects of climate science.  Most scientists seem to agree the warming of the oceans will likely lead to an increase in the intensity of storms, but it is unsettled whether such warming will lead to more storms overall.

Extreme Weather Events IX: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events IX: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events IV: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events IV: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events X: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events X: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005
Satsuma trees after the floodwaters subsided

Extreme Weather Events XIV: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events XIV: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events XII: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events XII: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events VII: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events VII: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events I: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005

Extreme Weather Events I: Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, 2005