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Rising sea levels could flood Gulf bays in Texas, Louisiana

Rising sea levels could flood Gulf bays in Texas, Louisiana

Rising sea levels could flood Gulf bays in Texas, Louisiana
October 23, 2006

Rising sea levels and increased sedimentation threaten to flood bays and delta areas in U.S Gulf Coast regions in Texas and Louisiana warned a Rice University researcher.

John Anderson, professor of earth science at Rice University in Houston, presented his findings today at the Geological Society of America’s 118th annual meeting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

“Looking back over the past 10,000 years, we find the evolution of each of these bays is punctuated by rapid flooding events that result in landward shifts in bay environments of tens of kilometers and increases in bay area up to 30 percent within a century or two,” said Anderson, who is also the W. Maurice Ewing Chair in Oceanography at Rice University in Houston. “These flooding events can be triggered by either a rapid increase in sea level or a rapid decrease in the amount of silt flowing into the bay, and there’s ample evidence to suggest that both of those will occur in each of these bays during the coming century.”

Scientists have documented an accelerated rise in sea levels in recent years, a development blamed on higher temperatures associated with climate change. Anderson said the impact of rising sea levels is magnified by land subsistence and warmer water temperatures in the Gulf.

“Bay-head deltas are just like the wetlands that have been disappearing in southeastern Louisiana in recent decades,” Anderson said. “They have to be renewed with river-borne sediments in order to maintain themselves in the face of steadily rising seas.”

According to a Rice news release, “Anderson said the geological record shows that sediment flowing into the five bays has tended to just keep pace with rising sea level over the past 10,000 years” but that at times, this “delicate balance” has been upset, resulting in flooding.

Flooding could well worsen the impact of Gulf hurricanes like Hurricane Katrina which battered New Orleans last summer.


Environmental problems worsened Hurricane Katrina’s impact. The loss of coastal marshlands that buffer New Orleans from flooding and storm surges may have worsened the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

This article is based on a news release from Rice University

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