LOUISIANA IS A state in the south-central United States, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Major physical features include the Mississippi River, which forms part of the state's eastern boundary and crosscuts southeastern Louisiana, and its Atchafalaya River distributary; extensive but rapidly diminishing coastal wetlands; and hogbacks and cuestas of the north. The uplands and terraces of the Gulf Coastal Plain of northwestern and east-central Louisiana are interrupted by the vast Mississippi River bottomlands, which fan southward to include the entire coastal lowland region. The highest elevation is only 535 ft. (163 m.), making Louisiana's highest point third lowest in the United States. Over 18 percent of Louisiana's area lies below 4.9 ft. (1.5 m.) above sea level. Much of the New Orleans metropolitan area lies below sea level.
The entire state has a humid-subtropical climate, with long, hot, rainy summers and cool, wet winters interrupted by mild-to-warm conditions. July temperatures average in the high 60s degrees F (20s degrees C) statewide, with January averaging approximately 43-55 degrees F (6-13 degrees C). Statewide, precipitation ranks among the highest of the states, but with a considerable gradient, ranging from nearly 48-71 in. (122-180 cm.) from northwest to southeast. Much of the rainfall, especially in summer, falls in short, intense downpours. The average number of thunderstorm days at a location exceeds that in any state except Florida, and tornado frequency per sq. mi. ranks sixth among the states. Louisiana is among the few places on Earth that frequently experiences tropical cyclones, tornadoes, rainfall rates exceeding 2 in. (5 cm.) per hour, floods, and winter storms.
Owing to its low-lying terrain, sultry climate, susceptibility to severe weather impacts, and high per capita rates of fossil fuel production and consumption, Louisiana is perhaps more vulnerable than any other state to environmental and economic impacts of long-term warming. These changes can be felt most directly in eustatic sea level increases from rising global temperatures, which could inundate the coastal zone and accelerate the already-rapid rate of coastal erosion. Continued warming would accelerate saltwater intrusion, which would remove the salt-intolerant coastal vegetation currently anchoring land in place. Drying conditions in much of the Mississippi River basin, as suggested by some general circulation models, would accelerate this effect of saltwater intrusion.
If global warming increases precipitation totals locally and across much of the Mississippi basin, as
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