New Orleans, LA

What will New Orleans look like if all ice on Earth melts? Here's your answer

Toni Koraza
Image by Peter Fitzgerald

New Orleans is a city well known for Mardi Gras, Cajun food, and wild parties.

Unfortunately, it’s also known for its extreme risk of flooding if it gets so much as a drizzle. Between its location on the Gulf of Mexico and its highest elevation being about six and a half feet above sea level, it’s a very wet city.

And with climate change looming on the horizon, it’s only going to get wetter.

The fact is that no part of New Orleans is safe from even a minor amount of sea-level rise. Just 6 feet of water would drown everything from Bourbon Street to the central business district. At 10 feet, there would be no hiding in the Superdome without getting one’s feet wet on the way in either.

It is estimated that by 2080, sea-level rise will see to it that New Orleans will face a 100% severe flood risk every year. The city’s systems of levees and pumps are already working overtime to keep it above water, and that isn’t going to get any easier with time. The bits of the map that are in green show the area protected by these systems. That protection wouldn’t last very long.

What Happens if All of the Ice Melts

Of course, just 10 feet of sea-level rise is a pittance compared to the estimates we see if we look into how much ice is locked up in glaciers. Between Greenland and Antarctica, it’s assumed that about 99% of the world’s freshwater is still frozen in glaciers.

Add that to the notion that the Arctic will see ice-free summers as early as 2035, and cities like New Orleans are going to have a significant problem on their hands.

The USGS estimates that if all the ice on Earth were to melt, we’d see a sea-level rise of about 230 feet (or 70 meters). Being waterlogged to that degree wouldn’t just drown New Orleans. It would drown most of the state.

Are you worried about the rising sea level?

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