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NASA Warns Major US Cities Sinking Faster Than Expected

 

NASA has issued a warning regarding the dual threat faced by the US East Coast, not only from the well-known challenge of rising sea levels but also from the lesser-known issue of land subsidence. Major cities such as New York, Baltimore, and Norfolk are at increased risk due to the combination of these two factors.

The research, conducted by scientists at Virginia Tech's Earth Observation and Innovation Lab using satellite data and GPS sensors, reveals that parts of the coastline are experiencing subsidence at a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters per year between 2007 and 2020. Although this might seem negligible, the cumulative effect amplifies the dangers associated with rising sea levels, posing a greater threat to critical infrastructure and the millions of residents living in these coastal areas.

This study sheds light on the complex challenges faced by coastal communities grappling with the impacts of climate change. Effectively addressing the risks of both rising seas and land subsidence necessitates the development and implementation of comprehensive adaptation strategies to ensure the long-term resilience of these regions.

The consequences of saltwater encroachment and land subsidence extend beyond ecological impacts, leading to the displacement of forests and affecting both wildlife and human structures. Approximately 897,000 structures along the coast, including highways and airports, are situated on land experiencing subsidence.

This latest research builds on a previous study from the EOI Lab, published in Nature Communications, which highlighted that most East Coast marshes and wetlands, crucial for protecting cities from storm surge during hurricanes, were sinking at rates exceeding 3 millimeters per year. Furthermore, at least 8 percent of coastal forests had been displaced due to subsidence and saltwater intrusion, resulting in the emergence of "ghost forests."

Leonard Ohenhen, a geophysicist at Virginia Tech, emphasizes the significance of subsidence as a localized yet often overlooked problem compared to global sea level rise. The implications for coastal residents include an increased frequency of "clear sky" tidal flooding, heightened damage to homes and infrastructure, and greater challenges with saltwater intrusion into farmland and freshwater supplies. The comprehensive understanding of these issues is crucial for developing effective strategies to mitigate the risks and enhance the resilience of the US East Coast against the evolving threats posed by climate change.

Feb. 22, 2024 3:56 p.m. 1210

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