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Space geodesy

Subsidence and flooding in New Orleans

Nature volume 441, pages 587588 (01 June 2006) | Download Citation



It has long been recognized that New Orleans is subsiding and is therefore susceptible to catastrophic flooding. Here we present a new subsidence map for the city, generated from space-based synthetic-aperture radar measurements, which reveals that parts of New Orleans underwent rapid subsidence in the three years before Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. One such area is next to the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet (MRGO) canal, where levees failed during the peak storm surge: the map indicates that this weakness could be explained by subsidence of a metre or more since their construction.

A subsidence map of the city offers insight into the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina.

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Author information


  1. *Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida 33149, USA

    • Timothy H. Dixon
    • , Falk Amelung
    • , Sang-Wan Kim
    •  & Shimon Wdowinski
  2. †Tele-Rilevamento Europa, 20149 Milan, Italy

    • Alessandro Ferretti
    •  & Fabrizio Novali
  3. ‡Dipartimento di Elettronica e Informazione, Politecnico di Milano, 20133 Milan, Italy

    • Fabio Rocca
  4. §Center for GeoInformatics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA

    • Roy Dokka
  5. National Geodetic Survey, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-3282, USA

    • Giovanni Sella
  6. ¶Department of Earth Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, Florida 33199, USA

    • Dean Whitman


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Competing interests

A.F. and F.N. are employees of TRE, a company based in Milan, Italy. TRE supplied key software for the analysis and gave technical advice on some aspects of the data interpretation, such as how uncertainties are calculated.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Timothy H. Dixon.

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