New Orleans, LATop Climate Change Risks: Heat, Precipitation, Flood

Risk Snapshot

Climate Change Hazard Ratings for New Orleans, LA

Ratings represent risk relative to the contiguous United States. 100 is the highest risk for the hazard and 1 is the lowest for the U.S., but does not indicate no risk. Flood and fire are rated based on the buildings in New Orleans exposed to these hazards. See hazard sections below and check your address for details.

People in New Orleans, LA are especially likely to experience increased risks from heat, precipitation, and flood.

New Orleans is heavily impacted by climate change because of its water-related vulnerabilities such as sea level rise, tornadoes, and flooding. A key factor behind these risks in New Orleans is the city’s very low elevation levels. The site on the Mississippi river, near the Gulf of Mexico, was historically mostly a wetland area. When swamps were drained, it led to subsidence (sinking) of the land levels. Now the city rests 6 feet below sea level on average.

A long history of destructive hurricanes, especially Hurricane Katrina, has had a heavy impact on safety, housing, and the economic health of the city. Katrina resulted in the death of more than 1,800. It was the costliest hurricane in the U.S. on record and resulted in the destruction of more than 800,000 housing units. The impacts of storm surge and waves overwhelmed the levee system, resulting in deadly rapidly rising water levels.

To mitigate against future risks, the city of New Orleans is rebuilding and replacing old structures so that buildings are elevated above flood levels for a 500-year storm event. The city has also implemented a sustainable integrated water management strategy.

Heat risk in New Orleans, LA

The number of the hottest days in New Orleans is projected to keep increasing.

In a typical year between 1985-2005, people in New Orleans, LA experienced about 7 days above 95.5ºF in a year. By 2050, people in New Orleans are projected to experience an average of about 47 days per year over 95.5ºF.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves, even in places with cooler average temperatures. See more information on heat risk. Everyone can take steps to reduce their risks from extreme heat.

Precipitation risk in New Orleans, LA

The amount of precipitation during the most extreme days in New Orleans is projected to increase.

An extreme storm for New Orleans, LA is a 48-hour rainfall total greater than 1.3 inches. Historically, about 25.5" of rain (or the equivalent in snow) fell over about 11 storms each year. By 2050, about 26.4" of rain are projected over about 12 storms each year. The annual precipitation in New Orleans, LA is projected to remain about the same, 59.9".

Extreme precipitation in any form can pose significant risks. Climate change increases the potential for extreme rainfall or snowfall because warmer air can hold more water vapor. See more information on storm risk. Property owners can take steps to reduce their risks from extreme precipitation.

Flood risk in New Orleans, LA

Buildings at risk in New Orleans average about a 37% chance of a flood about 2.0 feet deep over 30 years.

Of 215 census tracts in New Orleans, LA, there are 202 where more than half of buildings have significant risk from storm surge, high tide flooding, surface (pluvial) flooding, and riverine (fluvial) flooding.Property owners can check a specific address for flood risk including FEMA flood zone, then take steps to reduce their vulnerability to flooding damage.

Climate change is increasing inland and coastal flooding risk due to sea level rise and increasing chances of extreme precipitation. See more information on flooding risk.

Drought risk in New Orleans, LA

The recent average water stress in New Orleans is moderately low and projected to increase through 2050.

The Eastern Louisiana Coastal watershed, which contains New Orleans, LA, has experienced 505 weeks (44% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in drought of any level, and 65 weeks (6% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in Extreme or Exceptional drought. Source: National Drought Monitor.

Climate change is increasing the risk of drought. Water stress (the ratio of water demand to supply) depends on how water utilities source water and their plans to adapt to climate change. Property owners can also take steps to reduce their risks from drought.

Fire risk in New Orleans, LA

The risk on the most dangerous fire weather days in New Orleans is low. The number of these days per year is expected to increase through 2050.

Of 215 census tracts in New Orleans, LA, there are 19 where more than a quarter of buildings have significant fire risk, and 9 where more than half of buildings have significant fire risk. Property owners can take steps to mitigate their risks from wildfires.

Fire risk depends on proximity to vegation: densely developed urban areas have a much lower risk of burning than areas adjacent to wildland. Climate change increases risks from wildfire by creating hotter, drier conditions for fires to spread. ClimateCheck ratings of fire risk are based on projected weather conditions and U.S. Forest Service models simulating fire behavior.

How can we prevent and adapt to climate change?

Mitigating climate change, by eliminating our emissions into the atmosphere and reducing our strain on the environment, and adapting to our changing planet are both vital to our well-being.

Understand Risks

The risks presented on this page reflect averages for New Orleans, LA and can vary for individual properties. Check your address and request a report describing risks to your property and in your area.

Protect Homes and Communities

Check our free report for tips on protecting your home from hazards.

Green infrastructure is a category of nature-based solutions for managing increasing precipitation. Find resources for individuals and municipalities through the EPA Soak Up the Rain initiative.

Planting trees and vegetation helps reduce extreme heat in urban environments. Cool pavements can also help. Search the Heat Island Community Actions Database to see what some municipalities have been doing to reduce extreme heat risk.

Read more about building resilience for communities: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Use the Common Cause tool to find your representatives, how to contact them, and information about political contributions and bills they have introduced.

Find Balance

Reducing emissions is necessary and possible across the globe and in every part of our society. Learn more with the Project Drawdown introduction to climate solutions.

Estimate your emissions with the CoolClimate calculator.