Geologists Warn NYC is Sinking Under the Weight of Buildings

New York City residents might need lifejackets on standby after new geological research discovered that the weight of the skyscrapers could potentially cause the city to sink into its bodies of water.

NYC is home to more than one million buildings with a weight of approximately 1.7 trillion pounds, and researchers believe that the heavy structures might lead to the collapse of the city. According to the study, the city is slowly drowning into the water at a rate of one to two millimeters a year, “with some areas subsiding much faster.”

Lead researcher and geologist Tom Parsons of the United States Geological Survey believes that this descent makes the city more susceptible to natural disasters. The areas of concern are Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

“New York faces significant challenges from flood hazard; the threat of sea level rise is 3 to 4 times higher than the global average along the Atlantic coast of North America… A deeply concentrated population of 8.4 million people faces varying degrees of hazard from inundation in New York City,” the group of researchers wrote in their report.

People have already witnessed the effects of the natural disasters in the city. “Two recent hurricanes caused casualties and heavy damage in New York City,” he wrote. “In 2012, Hurricane Sandy forced seawater into the city, whereas heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ida in 2021 overwhelmed drainage systems because of heavy runoff within the mostly paved city.”

Parsons warns that the worst is not history as the structural integrity of the city’s buildings could pose a threat in the future. “The combination of tectonic and anthropogenic subsidence, sea level rise, and increasing hurricane intensity imply an accelerating problem along coastal and riverfront areas,” he wrote.

“Repeated exposure of building foundations to salt water can corrode reinforcing steel and chemically weaken concrete causing structural weakening.”

Parsons also believes the likelihood of severe storms is more likely than it was in the past. Greenhouse gas “appears to be reducing the natural wind shear barrier along the US East Coast, which will allow more frequent high-intensity hurricane events in the coming decades.”

He urges New York City’s real estate builders to take the risk with more caution since they have dismissed the concerns in the past.

“New York City is ranked third in the world in terms of future exposed assets to coastal flooding and 90 percent of the 67,400 structures in the expanded post-Hurricane Sandy flood-risk areas have not been built to floodplain standards.

“New York is emblematic of growing coastal cities all over the world that are observed to be subsiding, meaning there is a shared global challenge of mitigation against a growing inundation hazard.”

Source: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2022EF003465