20 July 2024
Sinking US cities face rising seas

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Sinking US Cities: A Looming Threat from Rising Seas

The alarming reality of sinking US cities facing the looming threat of rising seas has been highlighted by a recent study, indicating that major metropolitan areas like New Orleans and San Francisco could be significantly impacted by mid-century due to coastal land subsidence. Researchers have issued a stark warning that current flood defenses are inadequate, leaving both people and property vulnerable to the escalating risks posed by sea level rise and climate change.

Risks Amplified by Coastal Land Subsidence

Global warming has triggered the melting of ice sheets and glaciers, leading to a rise in ocean water levels worldwide. The United States is predicted to experience some of the most rapid sea level increases, particularly endangering coastal regions where approximately 30 percent of the country’s population resides. By 2050, a sea level rise of nearly a foot is anticipated to affect US coasts, heightening the likelihood of destructive climate-related events such as storm surges.

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However, the threat posed by rising seas is further exacerbated when factoring in coastal subsidence, as revealed by researchers. The study identifies 32 cities along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts where tens of thousands of individuals and potentially billions of dollars in property could be left exposed to the combined impacts of sea level rise and land sinking. Notably, marginalized communities and lower-income neighborhoods face the greatest risks in this scenario, intensifying the challenges they would encounter in recovering from severe flooding incidents.

Lead author Leonard Ohenhen from Virginia Tech emphasized that the underestimated role of subsidence in flood modeling has left a larger population at risk. The study’s findings suggest that even with existing coastal defense infrastructure, subsidence and sea level rise could result in an additional 1,300 square kilometers of land being susceptible to flooding over the next 30 years. This poses a threat to between 55,000 to 273,000 people and up to 171,000 properties, especially under the worst-case scenario projections.

Protecting Vulnerable Communities and Properties

To mitigate the rate of subsidence and address the growing risks of sea level rise, researchers have proposed several measures aimed at safeguarding sinking US cities. Recommendations include reducing groundwater extraction, regulating industrial activities that contribute to land sinking, and implementing emission reduction strategies to mitigate long-term climate-related hazards.

In addition to these efforts, the utilization of sea walls, levees, and barriers can provide essential flood protection for at-risk areas. Furthermore, the restoration of natural ecosystems such as marshes and mangroves can serve as effective nature-based solutions, acting as buffers against storm surges and aiding in sediment accumulation to counteract the effects of land subsidence. By incorporating these strategies, sinking US cities can enhance their resilience to the escalating threats posed by rising seas.

The Urgency of Action and Long-Term Solutions

The study’s findings underscore the urgent need for proactive measures to address the vulnerabilities faced by sinking US cities in the face of rising seas. As climate change continues to accelerate sea level rise, communities must prioritize resilience-building efforts to safeguard lives, infrastructure, and valuable properties from the impacts of coastal land subsidence.

By adopting a multi-faceted approach that combines infrastructure enhancements, environmental conservation, and policy interventions, sinking US cities can enhance their adaptive capacity and reduce the risks associated with sea level rise. Collaborative efforts among policymakers, urban planners, scientists, and local communities are essential in implementing sustainable solutions that promote long-term resilience and mitigate the threats posed by sinking coastal lands.

Conclusion: Navigating the Challenges Ahead

The study’s revelations regarding sinking US cities facing heightened risks from rising seas serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the complex interplay between sea level rise, land subsidence, and climate change impacts. As coastal communities grapple with the looming threats posed by sinking lands, proactive measures must be taken to bolster resilience, protect vulnerable populations, and secure critical infrastructure against future flooding events.

By implementing a combination of nature-based solutions, infrastructure upgrades, and policy interventions, sinking US cities can adapt to the evolving challenges posed by sea level rise and mitigate the potential damages to lives and properties. It is imperative for stakeholders at all levels to collaborate and prioritize sustainable strategies that safeguard coastal communities, preserve natural ecosystems, and build a resilient future in the face of rising seas and sinking lands.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.climate.gov/ 2. https://www.noaa.gov/ 3. https://www.epa.gov/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Sea level rise, Land subsidence, Coastal resilience

Sea level rise
Between 1901 and 2018, average global sea level rose by 15–25 cm (6–10 in), an average of 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) per year. This rate accelerated to 4.62 mm (0.182 in)/yr for the decade 2013–2022. Climate change due to human activities is the main cause.: 5, 8  Between 1993 and 2018, thermal...
Read more: Sea level rise

Subsidence is a general term for downward vertical movement of the Earth's surface, which can be caused by both natural processes and human activities. Subsidence involves little or no horizontal movement, which distinguishes it from slope movement.Processes that lead to subsidence include dissolution of underlying carbonate rock by groundwater; gradual...
Read more: Subsidence

Marine engineering
Marine engineering is the engineering of boats, ships, submarines, and any other marine vessel. Here it is also taken to include the engineering of other ocean systems and structures – referred to in certain academic and professional circles as “ocean engineering.” Marine engineering applies a number of engineering sciences, including...
Read more: Marine engineering

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