The Fragile Gulf

Soggy soil, eroding shorelines, sudden storms, global warming. Why the Gulf Coast is so treacherous--and why we'll never leave

If you want to get a true sense of how thoroughly Hurricane Katrina punished the Gulf Coast last week, a flyover by helicopter or Air Force One won't do it. The real picture doesn't resolve itself until you go 450 miles up, where a flock of Earth-observing satellites have been training their cameras on the Gulf of Mexico and beaming what they see back home. Researchers at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge began studying the first portfolio of pictures taken since the hurricane hit last week, and what they saw was a shock. Entire barrier islands are missing. Coastal marshes have...

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