Looking at Future Climate Threats Eight Years After Hurricane Katrina
By Jeff Spross
Eight years ago today, Hurricane Katrina came roaring in out of the Gulf of Mexico and straight into New Orleans. The storm overwhelmed the city’s levees and flooded many of the neighborhoods, ultimately killing more than 1,800 people—most of them poor and underprivileged—and wreaking more than $108 billion in estimated damages. Poignantly, even New Orleans’ Six Flags amusement park remains abandoned, the “Closed for Storm” signs still posted.
But while slow, the rebuilding process is real. As the city’s 300th anniversary approaches, it has removed 10,000 blighted properties, 80 percent of the pre-storm population has returned, new businesses are opening, old businesses are returning and investment is slowly making a comeback. The reclamation is ultimately estimated to cost as much as $150 billion. But “the city is a much better place than it was eight years ago,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the StarTribune.
New Orleans’ comeback is occurring on more human levels as well. Ronald Lewis is president and co-founder of the Original Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and a retired streetcar line repairman. He’s also a resident of the Ninth Ward and saw virtually his whole neighborhood washed away by Katrina. Now Lewis is back, and has rebuilt a museum in his back yard called the House of Dance and Feathers. It holds memorabilia from New Orleans’ social life and pleasure clubs dating all the way back to the 1800s, and cultural testaments to the contributions of the city’s African American and Native American communities.
“Katrina created a vast wasteland down here in the Lower Nine. And out of that I always tell this story about how towns are built, how the settlers used to ride across the mountains and see a single house and a smokestack,” Lewis told NPR. “And from that single house and smokestack became a town, and from that town became a city.”
The destruction Katrina brought stands as a monument to government neglect, racial injustice and the ongoing ravages of economic impoverishment. But as a recent prayer breakfast in the city pointed out, it also stands as a monument to the growing threat of climate change. Warmer global temperatures and the melting of the polar ice drives sea level rise—which is happening faster than previous models predicted—leaving coastal cities like New Orleans more vulnerable to storms. And the increased heat energy in the oceans then powers stronger and more destructive storms with greater frequency.
As a result, more and more American cities are grappling with looming threat of future floods: in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City is allocating $300 million for a climate resiliency revamp of its infrastructure; Seattle is pushing forward with a climate action plan to eliminate its carbon emissions by 2050 and remake its land use to prepare for flooding; and scientists have concluded that, barring a massive development effort, Miami is effectively doomed.
As Mike Tidwell put it at The Nation, in ways big and small, “we are all from New Orleans now.”
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
A tornado tore through a city north of Birmingham, Alabama, Monday night, killing one person and injuring at least 30.
- Tornadoes and Climate Change: What Does the Science Say ... ›
- Tornadoes Hit Unusually Wide Swaths of U.S., Alarming Climate ... ›
- 23 Dead as Tornado Pummels Lee County, AL in Further Sign ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Konisky
On his first day in office President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities."
Michael S. Regan, President Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, grew up near a coal-burning power plant in North Carolina and has pledged to "enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities." NCDEQ
- Report Urges Biden to Reverse Trump's Environmental Rollbacks ›
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- Biden Faces Pressure to Tackle 'Unfunded' Toxic Waste Sites ... ›
By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.