New York is sinking under the weight of skyscrapers

New research modeling the geology below New York against satellite data shows the city is collapsing into the ground .

New York is sinking at a rate of 1-2 mm/year under the weight of skyscrapers . Some areas in the city sink at a faster rate. The distortion could cause trouble for the low-lying city where more than 8 million people live. The findings could spur efforts to develop risk-reduction measures, Science Alert reported on May 17.

New York is sinking under the weight of skyscrapers
New York skyscrapers. (Photo: Manhattan Club).

In a new study published in the journal Earth’s Future, geologist Tom Parsons of the US Geological Survey and colleagues at the University of Rhode Island calculated the cumulative volume of more than a million buildings in New York City. York, that’s 764,000,000,000kg . They then divided the city into 100 x 100 square meters and converted the building mass to downward pressure by considering gravity.

Their estimates include building and interior volumes only, not taking into account New York City’s roads, sidewalks, bridges, rails, and many paved areas. Even with such limitations, the new calculation is more detailed than old observations of subsidence in the city by taking into account the complex geology beneath New York City, including sand, mud, and sediment. clay and bedrock.

By modeling the behavior of these substrates, the team showed that clay-rich soils and man-made accretions are particularly susceptible to subsidence. Comparing the model with ground-level satellite data, the researchers mapped estimates of subsidence across the city. They warn that increasing urbanization, including pumping groundwater, is exacerbating New York’s subsidence.

New York is not the only city experiencing this. A quarter of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, could be under water by 2050. Many parts of the city subside by nearly 11 centimeters a year due to groundwater extraction. More than 20 million Jakarta residents are now facing the possibility of city relocation. Similarly, much of New York’s Manhattan is only 1-2 meters above current sea level.