Slowly But Surely, US' Largest City Is Sinking

Jun 2, 2023

New Yorkers just got some heavy news: their city is sinking.

New York City (NYC) has more than 8.5 million people. It's the city with the most people in the US. But it's only the 28th biggest city when it comes to how much land it covers. Lots of people, buildings, and hotels in a small area have caused the ground to sink down over time. That’s according to a study in the journal Earth’s Future.

The study said that NYC’s buildings weigh over 1.7 trillion tons. And all of it is pressing down on the dirt beneath New Yorkers’ feet. The rate of soil compression is called “subsidence.” In NYC, it averages between one and two millimeters per year, depending on the part of the city they were studying. That might not seem like much, but it's a problem when you also think about sea levels rising because of climate change

"It's inevitable. The ground is going down, and the water's coming up. At some point, those two levels will meet," said Tom Parsons. He was one of the authors who helped write the report. He told The Associated Press, "The average elevation in the southern part of the island (of Manhattan) is only 1 or 2 meters (3.2 or 6.5 feet) above sea level — it is very close to the waterline, and so it is a deep concern." 

Parson’s team used satellite imagery, data modeling, and equations to find the sinking. They say that NYC won't be underwater for many years, but they hope their study helps city planners and engineers. This can help them plan how to deal with the effects of climate change.  

Photo by Mike C. Valdivia courtesy of Unsplash. 

Reflect: What are some potential challenges and solutions for a city that is facing sinking and rising sea levels?

Based on the details in the story, NYC is sinking due to _______. (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. the human population
b. the weight of skyscrapers
c. sea levels rising
d. A and B
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