The Peach State’s land area shrank by 393 square miles – more than four times the size of Fort Gordon – from 2000 to 2010, according to the newest data, which showed a decline from 57,906.14 square miles in 2000 to 57,513.49.
South Carolina also lost ground – falling from 30,109.47 square miles in 2000 to 30,060.7 in 2010 – a decrease of 48.77 square miles.
Where did all that real estate go? Experts say it is still in the states where it belongs but is now categorized as being underwater.
Census figures from both states show an increase in water areas that roughly offsets the decline in land, but it doesn’t mean there are mammoth new lakes or that chunks of land are falling into waterways.
“The main difference from the last decade is an increase in technology,” said Jennifer Holland, a geographer and chief of geographic products for the Census Bureau.
The changes included a transition from a 1990s-vintage relative database to a newer, spatially accurate database that greatly refined the way geographic details are gathered and analyzed.
“We did a lot of spatial improvements, and we were working with local and state governments that had spatially accurate GIS files with very accurate data,” Holland said.
The new census also included water body data from the U.S. Geologic Survey.
“Before, we had rivers shown as lines, which don’t take up much area,” she said. “But when you take that line and reflect that it is 17 feet wide for the entire length of the river, that adds area, and that’s what really explains the difference.”
On paper, the loss of so much land seems startling, but is no cause for alarm.
“It’s nothing insidious and no, we haven’t been invaded by South Carolina,” said Mark Welford, a Georgia Southern University associate professor of geography. “It’s just purely technology, and going back and changing areas defined as land to water.”