Tectonic Control of Subsidence and Southward Displacement of Southeast Louisiana with Respect to Stable North America

Document Type


Publication Date



tectonics, faulting, subsidence

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



GPS data collected between 1995 and 2006 suggest that southeast Louisiana, including New Orleans and the larger Mississippi Delta, are both subsiding vertically and moving southward with respect to stable North America. Both motions are likely related due to their common tectonic setting. Subsidence in the New Orleans area occurs in part because it is located in the hanging wall of a large listric normal fault system that forms the northern boundary of a 7–10 km thick allochthon that is detached from stable North America. Southward motion of this allochthon relative to stable North America occurs at 2.2 ± 0.6 mm/yr. The average subsidence rate for GPS sites located on the allochthon is 5.2 ± 0.9 mm/yr relative to Earth's center of mass, or ∼7 mm/yr relative to mean sea level. Motion of the allochthon is likely due to the gravity instability created by rapid Holocene sediment deposition in the delta following continental glacial retreat and is facilitated at depth by weak salt horizons. Because New Orleans and other communities of southeastern Louisiana lie atop this active allochthon, future motion of this body should be considered during rebuilding of the region following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Geophysical Research Letters, v. 33, issue 23, art. L23308