Airborne Laser Mapping Shows Katrina’s Impact on Coast

September 28, 2005

In a cooperative research program, the USGS, NASA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are using airborne laser mapping systems to quantify coastal change along the entire coastline affected by Hurricane Katrina (

Elevation data from before and after the hurricane are compared to determine the patterns and magnitudes of coastal change including erosion and destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Three lidar surveys were collected using two different systems, the NASA’s Experimental Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL) and USACE’s Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey (CHARTS).

The devastating impact of Katrina was observed on Dauphin Island, a barrier island approximately 150 km (90 miles) from where the storm made landfall. Storm surge inundated the island and waves transported sand landward into fan-shaped deposits shifting the entire island landward. Numerous houses, shown in the lidar difference plots as red rectangles, were completely destroyed.

NASA has created a series of dissolve animations that illustrate how major storm events can impact and change coastal areas and can be viewed on NASA TV or on the web at:

For more information about these images and their significance to coastal change see:

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