New York could be sinking under the weight of its skyscrapers, research finds

·2-min read

New York City may be slowly sinking into the water of the Hudson Bay under the weight of its iconic skyscrapers, according to scientists.

The 8.4million people living in The Big Apple are under threat with the City being measured as plunging at a rate of 1–2 mm per year, while sea level rises with some areas sinking at twice this rate, researchers found.

The phenomenon is expected to happen in all of Earth’s major coastal cities as sea levels rise but it is especially pronounced at the American city due to the sheer number of tall buildings on Manhattan Island amid rapid urbanisation, they said.

The report published in the Earth’s Future journal, concludes: “A deeply concentrated population of 8.4 million people faces varying degrees of hazard from inundation in New York City.

“The combination of tectonic and anthropogenic subsidence, sea level rise, and increasing hurricane intensity imply an accelerating problem along coastal and riverfront areas. Repeated exposure of building foundations to salt water can corrode reinforcing steel and chemically weaken concrete, causing structural weakening...

“Additionally, urbanization itself may exacerbate the problem; cumulative pressure applied to the ground from large buildings contributes to subsidence not only from initial primary settlement caused by soil compression and reduction of void space, but also through potential secondary settlement caused by creep in clay rich layers that can continue indefinitely.”

Tom Parsons, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey, who led the study, said: “It’s not something to panic about immediately but there’s this ongoing process that increases the risk of inundation from flooding.

“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.”

It came days after climate change researchers have warned that Earth is likely to break the 1.5°C average temperature rise for the first time ever in the next five years.

Scientists say there’s now a 66 per cent chance we will pass the 1.5°C rise above pre-industrial levels.