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Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences
ence perspective would use this pair of maps to ask questions such as the following: Were the locations of population gain the product of Katrina out-migration, or of in-migration by people previously not resident in the region? What state-level policies, if any, were responsible for this pattern of population shifts, and did those policies and their effects vary by state? Did the emergency response effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency contribute to some of the patterns apparent from the maps?
Fourth, understanding Katrina and the processes that led to its dramatic and yet uneven impacts requires integrating spatial and temporal analyses. Even though the historical context of urban development in New Orleans was responsible for some of the spatial variations in who was most adversely affected by Katrina and what areas were most able to recover quickly, there are other, less spatially and temporally proximate, contributing factors. Also responsible was a long-term commitment to agricultural development in the Mississippi River basin, which has involved massive hydroengineering projects and activities (e.g., dredging/channeling, damming, straightening, levee building), and agricultural reclamation policies, which together have contributed to significant loss of protective wetlands in the delta area by altering the natural sediment regime over hundreds of miles of one of the world’s greatest rivers. Looking to the future, a better understanding of hurricane patterns over time in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico can provide insight into how and why hurricanes happen, and help construct improved climate models that can facilitate planning for future storms like Katrina. Such forward-looking research is particularly important given the possible impacts of anthropogenic climate change, sea-level rise, and changing land-use patterns on the Mississippi River, its delta, and the Greater New Orleans region.
Geographical scientists use a suite of approaches and tools (e.g., mapping, geographic information systems [GIS], remote sensing, spatial statistics, modeling, deductive analysis drawing on sociospatial data) to provide insight into the forces that produce events such as Hurricane Katrina and to understand their
FIGURE 3 Mapping population changes for counties along a swath of the Gulf Coast illustrates broader spatial patterns of movement. This pattern influenced and was influenced by processes operating at multiple scales, such as the local, state, and regional (i.e., Mississippi Basin). SOURCE: American Communities Project, Brown University; population data from U.S. Census Bureau, damage data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.