Timelapse: The Shrinking Mississippi Delta

NASA satellite view of sediment around Bird’s Foot Delta.

This week for throwback Thursday (#TBT) we’re heading south to check out the Mississippi Delta region.  We’re looking at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River, sometimes known as the Bird’s Foot Delta.  This is where the river branches off in three directions and enters the Gulf of Mexico.  While it is the nature of a river delta to shift and change over time, humans make things complicated when we set up permanent residence in shifting landscapes and tamper with natural cycles. The wetlands that surround the delta act as a natural barrier, a shock-absorber if you will, to the storm surge or hurricanes and other tropical cyclones. But between levees starving these marshes of sediment, and the impact of thousands of miles of canals servicing oil and gas wells across the coast, the Delta is shrinking.

The canals allow saltwater to intrude on the marshes which should be brackish, killing vegetation and accelerating erosion. Because this increases the flood risk to the region, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East  filed a lawsuit last year against 97 oil and gas companies. Our partners in the Gulf Monitoring Consortium have been working to document these impacts, but this week Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill blocking the board from pursuing their case and other so-called “frivolous lawsuits.”

SkyTruth is not the first to see these changes in Google’s Timelapse, you can see other investigations and learn more about coastal erosion here and here.

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