New York concrete jungles are sinking their own foundation

New York is a developed marvel appreciated by many. However, the weights imposed by its magnificent skyscrapers may just lead to its own downfall.

Historical context

Over the last 2 million years, New York has experienced several Ice Age interspersed with warm period. The city used to be covered by gigantic glaciers which, eventually, retreated. Their retrieval wiped the landscape clean-changing course of rivers, widening valleys, and rounding mountaintops. Reasonably, this has caused massive subsidence, placing New York under threat.

Current scenario

Subsidence has been occurring where New York city now sits since the end of the last ice age. As the ice sheets left the land, the land once covered by ice, the north, began to rise however, the south of the ice (where New York is today) began to sink.

In a research, conducted by scientists from University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, it has been found that New York is sinking at the rate of 1 to 4 millimeters per year. To put this into context, it is important to observe the rate of sea level rise as well. It is well-known that sea level rise has been threatening coastal communities for long. However, New York’s current scenario focuses on how anthropogenic factors may also come into play.

(Source: NASA)

According to NASA, the rate of sea level rise has been measured to be around 0.4 mm per year. If sea level rise is to coincide with the rate of New York’s sinking capacity, the effects could be even more fatal. Even though the state’s descent has been consistent with the natural subsidence rates, researchers have found that skyscrapers may be contributing to greater subsidence.

Numeric evidence

New York City being a coastline community is on the verge of the Northern Atlantic Ocean. According to estimates by researchers at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) the 777 square km city comprises of 762 million tons of concrete, glass and steel. This estimate is alone based on the weight of the skyscrapers that inhabit New York.

Neither does this data account for the transport infrastructure nor does it account for the 8.5 million people that flood the streets of the popular city. It is important to understand that a coastline community such as New York faces constant threats from the, aforementioned, rising sea levels. Not only does it accelerate sinking but the threat of flooding remains constant.

An absence of solutions

Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist at the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center of the USGS in Moffett Field, California and one of the four authors of the study says, “ New York can be seen as a proxy for other coastal cities in the US and the world that have growing populations from people migrating to them, that have associated urbanization, and that face rising sea levels.”

While nothing can be done about the weight about the New York skyscrapers, ultimately, the discussion dwells on the need to curb the phenomenon of climate change. With climate change under control, rising sea levels can be brought to a hold or derailed from their, otherwise, natural course. This might present itself as a beacon of hope for the 8.5 million and adding residents of the city of New York.

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