In news arguably none of us are prepared for, geologists are warning that New York City may, in fact, be sinking under the weight of its skyscrapers.
The news was first reported by the New York Post, who stated that new geological research shows that the 1.7-trillion-pound weight of NYC’s 1 million+ buildings exert a tremendous amount of pressure on the Earth, causing the city to sink down into its surrounding bodies of water.
Satellite data shows that, each year, the city sinks 1-2 millimeters while the sea level continues to rise, with some areas subsiding much faster.
Projected sea level rise poses a clear threat to coastal cities–the threat of sea level rise in New York is 3–4 times higher than the global average along the Atlantic coast of North America–causing flood hazard to be a significant challenge for the city.
In fact, NYC is ranked third in the world in terms of possible future coastal flooding, and 90% of the 67,400 structures in post-Hurricane-Sandy flood risk areas don’t have the proper defenses against flooding.
While settlement–the downward movement caused specifically by the weight of buildings–is accounted for in most construction designs, the cumulative settlement effect of all buildings has not been studied.
Depending on soil type, for example, there can be indefinite slow creep settlement of buildings.
And since much of lower Manhattan is no more than one to two meters above sea level, that paired with the sinking rate of 1-2 millimeters per year make NYC vulnerable to natural disasters.
Though, when it comes to the sinking in general, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are reportedly most at risk.
The UN reports that 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by the year 2050. While we can’t imagine that the 1,084,954 buildings within NYC’s five boroughs will cease to exist any time soon, the fact of NYC sinking is definitely a thought to keep in the back of your head.
We’re just here wondering if this is what the Jonas Brothers meant when they said, “not much has changed but they lived underwater?!”
All jokes aside, the full study can be found here.