Louisiana 2050 Forecast

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in Louisiana.  And you know, I do have a lot of friends in Louisiana.  I was at Tulane before I was displaced by Katrina, I loved to explore the city of New Orleans and the land around there, go find interesting places.  The bayou around there, I just love it.  I love the smell of it.

I’ve already got a city-level forecast up on the channel for New Orleans, so if you want a really detailed view just of that city and her struggle ahead, you can check that out.  And all this emotional involvement I’ve got with this forecast, I apologize for how that may impact my objectivity.  But this is going to be a hard forecast, anyone watching knows that, and it might not help that I’m hurting with you, but I am. 

We’re gonna look at the worst part first, we’re gonna look at the projected coastal changes with 2-3 feet of sea level rise.  That’s higher than in other areas, the gulf coast is projected to experience the highest rise by mid-century. 

So you can see that from the projection even far out, this is bad.  This is real messed up.  We’re going to check out some places.  Look at Houma here, that’s not a small community.  Terrible.  This place, this culture, the people who live in this land that will be consumed by the sea, I never had a better time than with these people.  These people know how to live. 

Zooming back out.  Let’s look at Lake Charles here.  I was freaked out when I first saw this, but the housing stock in Lake Charles is not as bad as it might look from far out.  Good news there.  You can see you’re going to have a problem with this highway, I think that’s the 171 there, that is an expensive looking problem. 

You come up here by Baton Rouge, you can see there’s a lot of water coming pretty far inland.  You’re going to have concerns about saltwater incursion, impacts on the soil of these fields.  But the housing stock looks pretty safe.  Looks like not too many people decided to bet against the water, we all know that’s never a smart bet. 

New Orleans, it’s an island.  It’s defined by the sea walls.  At 3 feet, you can see the sea level is higher than the river, so the sea will start coming in through the river channel.  And you can see up across Lake Pontchartrain, there around Slidell, there are some projected direct impacts.

We need to remember that this map is just showing us direct impacts, direct inundation.  Not storm surge impacts.  And you can see that all these communities, all these bayou, bayou adjacent communities, have lost their buffer against the storm surge.  Looks real bad in terms of resisting hurricanes.  And the hurricanes are projected to continue to increase in intensity, and to see more of that rapid intensification where you think you’re preparing for a Cat 2 and then it’s a Cat 4 overnight.  So we’ve got big problems here.

Small bright spot, as it gets warmer, you’re going to get more mangrove forest type development in these wet areas, these coastal bayou areas.  And those are going to help protect the new coast, they are very hurricane-resistant, water-absorbing ecosystems. 

We’re going to transition away from the coast, look inland, but first I’m gonna take a minute.  These communities whose land is going to be consumed by the sea, these are hard working communities.  They work in resource extraction, work in fishing and energy.  They don’t have a ton of resources to move. They have a good year, they do what you would do.  They put that money into their home, into their boat, into their business.  When you think about climate refugees, you are not going to need to look overseas.  Look here.  These are our neighbors and countrymen.  Even as we mourn the loss of these places, we need to think about how to welcome the resilience, resourcefulness, and joie de vivre of these communities into new places.  Because God knows, these people sure have the right attitude.  Any community would be richer with an infusion of this powerful American culture.

Alright, enough soap-boxing.  Here’s the summer projections.  Right now, you’re above 86 for about a third, a half the year.  You’re going to move from having up to 180 days above 86 to having 210 days above 86, and I don’t believe that most of you watching are going to think that’s a real BFD.  Let’s look at the plant hardiness zones, see how much it’ll cool down when it gets cool. 

You can see that right now Louisiana straddles zone 8 and zone 9.  Check it out, that’s not actually changing that much.  The whole of the northern half of the state, no big change.  Down by the coast, you can see you’re shading towards a 10, in this land that’s not really going to fit your standard definition of land anymore, right?  So those mangrove forests I was talking about, you can see how it’ll stay warm enough in the winter to encourage them.  And again, that’s a nice emerging ecosystem, lots of good stuff to eat, lots of protection from storm surge.

In terms of precipitation changes, 760 I want to show you that right now, we’ve seen a trend towards more heavy rain in the northwest corner, and less rain towards the gulf.  The scientific community does expect these trends to continue. 

And I want to talk a little more about the heat.  762-763 Now, down by the coast, people in this state are used to warm nights.  But we are expecting substantially more warm nights throughout the state, nights where many people will want or need air conditioning so that they can cool down from the day, and so we do anticipate the state having additional energy needs.  A lot of states, I put more time into talking about the potential for deadly humid heatwaves.  But you are already aware of that potential, you’ve had humid heat waves get up over 105 in this state before.  You know people can die of them, particularly older folks and little kids, and people with heart and lung problems.  So this threat, it’s not a new threat for you, but you should be aware it will be getting worse.  Those cultural tools we have for dealing with extreme humid heat in this area, they are an excellent example of a contribution that will be needed in more parts of the country, just as some folks in Louisiana need to relocate.

So we’re gonna start putting some of the pieces together, and right away we can see, that this state is going to have some real infrastructure expenses coming up.  When we were looking at the coast, we saw that there are quite a few bridges and highways vulnerable to flooding, there are going to be some real engineering challenges.  And with the water coming up, you can imagine the disruption to the current structure of the gulf energy industry is going to be intense.  You saw that a lot of that energy infrastructure is going to be severely impacted by the sea level rise.  And that disruption is not coming at a good time, not when we’re going to want more access to power for cooling in the rest of the state- not to mention in the rest of the South.  The way this picture comes together, it doesn’t look good.  And the amount of people who are going to need to move in this state, who are going to experience personal loss, it’s a high burden of human grief. 

I’m sorry I can’t tell you a better story, Louisiana.  The northern half of the state has a decent outlook, moderate changes, changes in line with the way Louisiana feels today.  And probably a lot of people who have to move up from the coast will not want to move too far, will want to stay in state, so you have some growth potential in the northern half of the state.  But the state-wide infrastructure issues are serious, I don’t want to paint a picture with too much optimism. 

This is one of the hardest outlooks we’ve had so far.  I think it’s better than Arizona, but that’s not saying much.

You’ve got time.  You can see what’s projected, that’ll help you make some informed decisions.  It’s not looking too bad in the northern half of the state, some real opportunities for building resilience there.  And it’s not like there’s going to be no bayou.  It’s moving, right?  It’s not like the new coast is going to be right up against some solid cropland, it’s going to be up against that new wet gulf ecosystem.  It’s going to be really weird, really hard to predict what will happen in that area.  But it’s better going into a challenge with as much information as you can.  And I hope this video helped.

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please like and subscribe, help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.