BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — LSU is part of a group of schools getting millions of dollars to take a closer look at the impacts of climate change.
As part of the Southern Climate Impact Planning Program, they are being awarded $5.4 million over five years along with the University of Oklahoma, Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University, and Adaptation International.
LSU’s focus in the partnership is to look at coastal impacts from climate change. The other schools manage more inland issues such as drought. The program is one of the few selected by the NOAA for the grant.
Over the last 13 years, researchers at LSU have been studying weather events such as excessive heat. Research Associate Derek Thompson is taking a closer look at how the heat index is defined and how it is sending people to the hospital.
“One of the first things that kind of surprised me was that heat was the number one weather-related killer in the United States,” Thompson said. “That threw me off because you’re used to hearing about the more major disasters.”
Louisiana State Climatologist Barry Keim is leading the team as they work with crawfish farms, the Air Force, and other major industries to show how climate events impact them.
Assistant Professor of Research for the Geography Department Vincent Brown is looking at climate resiliency and how communities can prepare for the changing weather patterns. One example is the increase in major rain events, like what Baton Rouge saw in May and 2016.
“We’re working with the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans and we’re trying to help them understand some potential changes in precipitation in the future caused by climate change and how they can take what we are seeing and tell them what to expect,” Brown said. “And how they can then prioritize infrastructure projects.”
With the funding, the team plans to look at the population shift away from the coast in Louisiana as major storms look to be more frequent.
“We’re also looking at the changing dynamics along the coastal zone in terms of the population. We’re seeing a decline in population, in fact, we’re the only state on the Gulf coast where people are actually leaving the coast and not moving toward the coast,” said Keim.
Their work helps other agencies make plans around the Strategic Petroleum Reserve sites in the state as well as the effects of climate change on the flora and fauna along the coast.