‘Time travel’ study delivers dire prediction for Louisiana marshes

About 75% of the state’s coastal marshes could be under water in 50 years

In what they call a “real-world time-travel experiment,” researchers found climate change could submerge much of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands within 50 years.

Scientists usually have to rely on computer models to predict the effects of rising seas. But

in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, researchers set up a network of nearly 400 monitoring sites along the Louisiana coast. Then, the rate of sea-level rise in the region surged to more than half an inch per year—at least three times the global average.

That exposed the region to the kind of levels not expected until around 2070, giving researchers a glimpse of what the coastal flooding on the marshes may look like in the future.

“It is the dream of every field researcher who does experiments—we can basically travel 50 years into the future to get a peek at what’s in store,” said Tulane University professor Torbjörn Törnqvist, an author on the study published in Nature Communications.

The researchers found that 87% of the sites they examined were “unable to keep up with rising water levels.” Under the current climate trajectory, they concluded, “drowning of [about 75%] of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands is a plausible outcome by 2070.”

Read more from Tulane University.

Header Image: About 75% of Louisiana’s coastal marshes could be under water by 2070 according to a recent study. Credit: USGS