According to Recent Research Coastal Cities in the United States Are Sinking as Sea Levels Rise

According to new research, certain coastal cities in the United States are “disappearing” into the ground, potentially exacerbating the consequences of rising sea levels in the future.

According to a report published Wednesday in Nature, a significant portion of land in 32 coastal towns in the United States might be at risk of flooding by 2050 as a result of subsidence, which is the progressive caving in or sinking of ground.

According to Leonard Ohenhen, a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech University who studies coastal vulnerability and large-scale land subsidence, most coastal communities will be affected by the ongoing loss of land.

Large cities surrounded by water, such as Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco, may face floods in the near future as a result of land elevation changes mixed with sea level rise of around 4 millimeters per year, according to Ohenhen, the paper’s author.

According to Recent Research Coastal Cities in the United States Are Sinking as Sea Levels Rise

The paper’s findings suggest that up to 273,000 persons and 171,000 properties in coastal regions across the United States could be affected.

Coastal locations with greater elevation levels and lower subsidence rates, such as the Pacific Coast, have a reduced overall flood threat, according to the study.

Many parts of San Francisco’s mountainous terrain will not be affected by flooding, but the San Francisco International Airport and other parts of the city built on reclaimed land are sinking into the surrounding bay, according to Manoochehr Shirzaei, director of Virginia Tech’s Earth Observation and Innovation Lab.

In contrast, locations with low elevation levels and higher rates of subsidence, such as New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas, were determined to be at a higher risk of future floods.

New Orleans, for example, is built on low-lying terrain within the Mississippi River’s sediments, causing the entire city to descend rapidly, according to Shirzaei, who oversaw the research.

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Several Gulf Coast locales investigated show significant sinking at rates equal to or greater than the present rate of global sea level rise, according to Ohenhen.

Biloxi, Mississippi, for example, is sinking at a rate of approximately 5 millimeters per year, according to Ohenhen.

Groundwater extraction and sediment compaction are the primary causes of sinking, according to Shirzaei.

According to the authors, coastal subsidence is commonly underrepresented in flooding models.

According to the study, the inundation that coastal communities will face as sea levels rise may be worse than previously imagined, given how quickly the land sinks.

However, Shirzaei believes that ground subsidence will play a major role in increasing flooding risks over the next three decades.

“What happens on the land really, really affects us,” Ohenhen added. “And so if you have a land sinking on one side and see rising on the other side, you’re going to have areas that would be inundated in the future.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that about 40% of the US population lives near the coast.

According to Ohenhen, the sinking is predicted to inflict structural damage to the majority of existing properties, and the report does not even cover the worst-case scenario for many places.

“As climate change continues to worsen, we are going to see even more worsened effects in most coastal cities,” he went on to say.

People in coastal regions are already adjusting to big changes, according to Ohenhen.

Furthermore, vulnerable people, many of whom are already suffering disproportionately from climate change disparities, may confront additional challenges as a result of subsidence and rising sea levels, according to the authors.

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Parts of low-lying Florida, including Miami, are already seeing “sunny day flooding” caused by high tides.

According to the study, Miami has the highest rate of flooding vulnerability, with up to 122,000 people and 81,000 properties potentially at risk by 2050.

Current hazard mitigation efforts are “inadequate,” according to the researchers, thus, local management strategies will be required to reinforce coastal infrastructure.

According to the experts, solutions include building sea walls, lifting existing properties above flood level, and refilling groundwater supplies.

“Land subsidence can be mitigated fairly rapidly using engineering and nature-based solutions that we already have in our toolbox,” Shirzaei stated in a press release.

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