Buildings, Skyscrapers, Manhattan, New York City


  • The study said New York City is just one of the many coastal cities around the world at risk of sinking
  • The total weight of more than 1 million buildings in the city is nearly 1.7 trillion pounds
  • The city is sinking at a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters per year, with some areas "subsiding much faster"

New York City is literally "sinking" lower into its surrounding waters due to the weight of its more than 1 million skyscrapers, a recently published study found.

According to geological research published in the journal Earth's Future, the nearly 1.7 trillion-pound total weight of the buildings in New York City is causing it to sink at a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters a year, "with some areas subsiding much faster."

The study's lead researcher, geologist Tom Parsons of the United States Geological Survey, said that while the sinking may not yet be visible to the naked eye, the gradual descent is making the city extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Lower Manhattan, in particular, is at risk, with Brooklyn and Queens being areas of concern as well, the study said.

"New York faces significant challenges from flood hazard; the threat of sea level rise is 3 to 4 times higher than the global average along the Atlantic coast of North America ... A deeply concentrated population of 8.4 million people faces varying degrees of hazard from inundation in New York City," Parsons and his team said in the study.

He said that the city has seen the dire effects of the sinking starting more than a decade ago when two hurricanes caused significant casualties and damages to N.Y.C.

"In 2012, Hurricane Sandy forced sea water into the city, whereas heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ida in 2021 overwhelmed drainage systems because of heavy runoff within the mostly paved city," the researchers wrote in the study.

They fear that after the two hurricanes, which forced people to abandon their cars on major roadways in the city, the structural integrity of the buildings could be at risk in the near future.

"The combination of tectonic and anthropogenic subsidence, sea level rise, and increasing hurricane intensity imply an accelerating problem along coastal and riverfront areas," the team said.

"Repeated exposure of building foundations to salt water can corrode reinforcing steel and chemically weaken concrete causing structural weakening," they added.

Parsons and his team also pointed out that greenhouse gas, which appears to reduce the natural wind shear barrier along the East Coast, will lead to frequent and more intense hurricanes in the coming decades.

They said that despite warnings during Sandy and Ida, the real estate additions to New York City did not seem to take the situation seriously enough.

"New York City is ranked third in the world in terms of future exposed assets to coastal flooding and 90% of the 67,400 structures in the expanded post-Hurricane Sandy flood-risk areas have not been built to floodplain standards," the team said.

They also warned that New York City is just one of the many coastal cities around the globe at risk of subsiding as the negative effects of climate change continue to wreak havoc on the world.

REUTERS/Rickey Rogers