It's All Downhill From Here: A Forecast of Subsidence Rates in the Lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor

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Southeast Louisiana is susceptible to the impact of subsidence due to natural and anthropogenic processes including sediment compaction and loading, fluid withdrawal, and faulting. Subsidence rates in Southeast Louisiana are higher than anywhere else in the United States, and the impact of subsidence rates on industrial complexes has not been studied. Spatial interpolation methods were analyzed to determine the best fit for subsidence rates and to create a predictive surface for the lower Mississippi River Industrial corridor (LMRIC). Empirical Bayesian kriging, ordinary kriging, universal kriging, and inverse distance weighted interpolation methods were applied to the 2004 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published Technical Report #50 dataset and cross-validation methods were utilized to determine the accuracy of each method. The mean error and root mean square error were calculated for each interpolation method, then used to detect bias and compare the predicted value with the actual observation value. Cross-validation estimates are comparable for each method statistically and visually; however, the results indicate the empirical Bayesian kriging interpolation method is the most accurate of the methods using the lowest mean error and root mean square error scores. Digital elevation models for the years 2025, 2050, and 2075 were developed based on the predictive surface of subsidence rates using the results from the empirical Bayesian kriging interpolation method. Results indicate that by 2025, 31.4% of landmass in the LMRIC will be below 0 m NAVD88, with 40.4% below 0 m NAVD88 by 2050, and 51.8% by 2075. Subsidence rates in the LMRIC range from approximately 16 mm to less than one mm per year. Nine of the 122 industrial complexes located in the LMRIC are estimated to be below 0 m NAVD88 by the year 2075. Limited economic impacts can be inferred based on the number of facilities impacted; however, service disruptions due to subsidence impacting infrastructure surrounding these industrial complexes would have catastrophic economic impacts on a regional, state, and national level.