New York and other major cities that are sinking

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadMay 22, 2023 | 15:12

New York and other major cities that are sinking

New York city is sinking under the weight of its buildings, study finds. Photo: DailyO

The bustling cities where dreams are made, may not exist for a long time. New research has found that New York City in the US is sinking under the weight of its gigantic, concrete buildings. Not just sinking, some areas of NYC are said to be plunging at double the rate given that the sea level around the city is also rising. 


What's happening to New York?

  • Called the Big Apple which never sleeps, New York City's iconic skyscraper skyline may be the city's undoing in the coming few decades. 
  • Researchers from the University of Rhode Island and the US Geological Survey published their findings in the Earth's Future journal
  • The researchers observed New York City's subsidence rate or the speed at which the city is sinking. Researchers also looked at the heavy buildings built in the city on bedrock, clay, sand, and silt. 
New York. Photo: Pexels
  • The study found that NYC is definitely sinking or subsiding by nearly 1-2 mm each year, with some areas sinking at double the rate. 
  • The cumulative total of the weight of New York's building is about 1.68 trillion pounds or about the same as 140 million elephants. 
  • Lower Manhattan area is said to be at a greater risk of sinking than other areas given that it is only one or two meters above the sea level. 
  • On the other hand, the water around the city has risen by 9 inches or 22 cm since 1950 due to global warming and the melting of glaciers. 

What does this mean for the future of New York?

  • Researchers say that while there is no need to panic about the immediate sinking of the city, the city administration needs to prepare for the risk of rising floods in the area. 
It's not something to panic about immediately but there's this ongoing process that increases the risk of inundation from flooding.
- Tom Parsons, geophysicist at the US Geological Survey and lead researcher (Guardian)
  • Not just loss of lives, flooding can also affect the infrastructure of the city with salt water corroding the steel and chemically weakening concrete. 
  • While the researchers say that it wasn't a mistake to build buildings in the city, it needs to be kept in mind now every time something new is built, the city is pushed down a little bit more. 
  • In 2021, Hurricane Ida caused flooding in several areas of the city leading to several people drowning to death. Major flooding is expected to rise by 4 times in frequency by the end of the century. 
  • New York is not the only major city in the world staring at doomsday, even though it seems like a lifetime away. There are several more cities around the world that are facing a more imminent day of doom. 

These are the world's fasted sinking cities:


Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta. Photo: Getty Images
  • Indonesia's capital Jakarta is considered the world's fastest sinking city, with the northern part of the city already submerged by 2.5 meters in the past 10 years. The city is said to have submerged nearly 50% below the sea level. It has forced the Indonesian government to start building a new capital called Nusantara in another part of the country

Lagos, Nigeria

  • Africa's largest city on the low coastline is eroding at a dangerous rate, and a sea level rise by 3-9 feet would be catastrophic according to a 2012 study by the University of Plymouth. 

Houston, Texas, USA

  • Another US city, Houston is sinking. In some areas, the rate of subsidence is at 2 inches per year, mostly because of excessive groundwater pumping.

Bangkok, Thailand

  • Bangkok is said to be sinking at 2 cm per year with some areas sinking even faster with the use of aquifer systems and the weight of buildings. 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh City is also sinking at the rate of 5 cm per year. The city reportedly started sinking way back in 1990.

Mumbai, India

Mumbai. Photo: Pexels
  • Parts of south Mumbai are predicted to drown in the Arabian Sea by 2050 due to global warming and other factors. 

There are several more cities in the world, especially coastal cities, that are threatened by the rising sea levels and the density of infrastructure. While we may or may not see actual cities disappearing underwater in our lifetime, we are definitely set to see the lives of the residents become more miserable as a result. 

Last updated: May 22, 2023 | 15:12
    Please log in
    I agree with DailyO's privacy policy