Descent into Chaos: New York City Faces Catastrophic Threat from Climate Change, Rising Seas, and Towering Skyscrapers

New York City’s sinking is attributed to construction densification and rising sea levels, according to researchers, highlighting the urgent need for measures to address the sinking crisis and climate change risks in the city.


New York City finds itself in a dire situation as it grapples with the triple threat of climate change, escalating sea levels, and the overwhelming presence of its towering skyscrapers. The global trend of warming temperatures and rising sea levels places coastal cities at significant risk.

Experts have drawn attention to the perilous combination of construction densification and rising sea levels, leading to an alarming inundation hazard. This occurrence, commonly referred to as subsidence or sinking, has been observed in various locations worldwide. A recent example can be seen in the town of Joshimath, situated in India’s Uttarakhand, where substantial cracks have formed in residential buildings, illustrating the severity of the situation.

A recent study published in the journal Advancing Earth and Space Science sheds light on the escalating inundation risk faced by New York City. The research underscores the combined impact of rising sea levels, subsidence, and intensifying storms influenced by both natural and human factors. These findings emphasize the urgent need for proactive measures to address the growing threats posed by these phenomena in the city.

Researchers from the Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, said in the paper: “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.”

New York’s Geology and Gradual Subsidence Threaten Urban Stability

New York City, a bustling metropolis with a population of eight million, is experiencing a gradual sinking at a rate of 1-2 mm per year, while certain regions are subsiding at an even faster pace. The geological composition of the city’s surface is intricate, characterized by a diverse mix of glacial terrane, including silt, sand, clay lake deposits, glacial moraines, and outwash.

“Post-glacial isostatic effects are projected to cause between 500–1,500 mm of subsidence by 2100,” the paper read.

Building Mass and Flood Risks: New York City’s Vulnerability

In their study, the research team conducted an analysis of one million buildings to estimate their mass and generate the city’s load profile. Their primary objective was to raise awareness about the potential future flood risks associated with constructing high-rise buildings in coastal, river, or lakefront areas. The study emphasized the importance of incorporating mitigation strategies to address these risks. While the exact foundation details of each building were unknown, the findings highlighted the collective impact of the city’s building mass on its vulnerability. New York City has already experienced the devastating consequences of two powerful hurricanes: Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which resulted in seawater inundation, and Hurricane Ida in 2021, which overwhelmed drainage systems due to heavy rainfall.

Researchers cautioned that the process of urbanization has the potential to worsen the issue.


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