Parts of many coastal cities are sinking faster than the rising seas

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers at Nanyang Technological University, working with a group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and another colleague at ETH Zürich, has found evidence showing parts of many major coastal cities are sinking faster than the sea rises. In their paper published in the magazine nature sustainability, The group describes the use of satellite-based radar to measure the degree of land subsidence in 48 of the world’s largest cities.

Previous research has shown that global warming is melting ice around the world, causing sea levels to rise. This increase in sea levels is a major concern for cities and towns on the edge of the sea. But many cities also face another problem – land subsidence, where the land is sinking due to removal of groundwater or gas and the compaction of the land from the massive weight of the buildings above it.

In this new effort, the researchers note that rising sea levels as land sinks could lead to major problems for coastal cities in the coming years. To learn more about the degree of the problem, the researchers were able to access and analyze radar data from NASA satellites that measure Earth’s altitude around the world.

In all, the researchers measured subsidence in 48 of the world’s largest cities over the years from 2014 to 2020, and found that nearly all of the cities they studied experienced some degree of subsidence. And in 44 of them, some areas were sinking at a rate faster than the rising sea.

Previous research has shown that sea levels are rising by about 3.7 mm/year. In their study, the researchers found that some parts of some cities are experiencing land sinking at a rate of up to 20 mm/year. The average rate for Ho Chi Minh City, for example, was 16.2 mm/year. They also took a closer look at some cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, and found that nearly 2 square kilometers of land within city limits would be under water by 2030 if measures were not taken to curb sea rise.

Coastal cities in Asia are sinking faster than sea level rise

more information:
Cheryl Tay et al., Sea level rise from land subsidence in major coastal cities, Nature Sustainability (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41893-022-00947-z

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