The city that never sleeps has earned itself a new nickname — the city that sinks.
A new report published in Earth’s Future journal found that New York City is sinking by 1-2mm each year, with the rate doubling in some areas. This means that “a deeply concentrated population of 8.4 million people faces varying degrees of hazard from inundation in New York City.'
Since 1950, water levels around the island of Manhattan have risen by 22cm. As world glaciers melt at twice their previous average, and storms occur at four times the rate of before, climate change is expected to exacerbate the city's sinking.
Another factor is the enormous skyscrapers built in the condensed area, the weight of which is estimated to be a total of 1.68 trillion lbs. However, researchers note that this "comparison is complicated because the urban load has accumulated across a much longer period than measured subsidence rates."
“It’s not something to panic about immediately but there’s this ongoing process that increases the risk of inundation from flooding,” Tom Parsons of the US Geological Survey, who led the report, told The Guardian. “The softer the soil, the more compression there is from the buildings. It wasn’t a mistake to build such large buildings in New York but we’ve just got to keep in mind every time you build something there you push down the ground a little bit more.”
The long-term effect on New York, as well as the city's response, are likely to set a precedent for other coastal cities across the globe. As Parsons said, these areas “have to get planning for this."
"If you get repeated exposure to seawater, you can corrode steel and destabilize buildings, which you clearly don’t want," he said. "Flooding also kills people, too, which is probably the greatest concern.”