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

Risk Snapshot

Climate Change Hazard Ratings for New Orleans, LA

Ratings represent risk relative to North America. 100 is the highest risk for the hazard and 1 is the lowest, 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 around 1990, 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 50 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 share of precipitation during the biggest downpours in New Orleans is projected to increase.

A downpour for New Orleans, LA is a two-day rainfall total over 1.3 inches. Around 1990, about 42.0% of precipitation fell during these downpours. In 2050, this is projected to be about 45.0%. The annual precipitation in New Orleans, LA is projected to remain about 59.8".

Extreme precipitation in any form can pose significant risks. Climate change is increasing 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 39% chance of a flood about 2.2 feet deep over 30 years.

Of 248 census tracts in New Orleans, LA, there are 231 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 average water stress in New Orleans is projected to be about the same around 2050 as around 2015.

The Eastern Louisiana Coastal watershed, which contains New Orleans, LA, has experienced 550 weeks (46% of weeks) since 2000 with some of its area in drought of any level, and 76 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 moderate. The number of these days per year is expected to increase through 2050.

Of 248 census tracts in New Orleans, LA, there are 36 where more than a quarter of buildings have significant fire risk, and 26 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 limit climate change and live in a transforming world?

The projections on this page describe a future that we still have a chance to avoid. To keep average global warming below 1.5ºC—the goal agreed on in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords—we need to act rapidly to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Understand Risks

The risks presented on this page reflect modeled averages for New Orleans, LA under one projected emissions scenario and can vary for individual properties. To find out more, check a specific address and request a report describing risks to your property and in your area.

Reduce Emissions

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states: “If global emissions continue at current rates, the remaining carbon budget for keeping warming to 1.5ºC will likely be exhausted before 2030.” This remaining carbon budget is about the same amount as total global emissions 2010-2019.

In the United States, the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation (about 30%). Globally the vast majority of transportation-related emissions come from cars and trucks, followed by shipping and air travel, which is growing quickly.

Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. uses twice the average share of emissions for its buildings (including heating and cooling).

Estimate your emissions with the CoolClimate calculator.

Reducing emissions is necessary and possible across the globe and in every part of our society. Learn more with the Not Too Late project and the Project Drawdown introduction to climate solutions.

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.