New York City, the sprawling metropolis known for its iconic skyline, has been undergoing slight changes beneath its surface. These changes could have significant ramifications for its future. Recent findings from an extensive study reveal that the city is sinking at an average rate of 1.6 millimeters per year. Certain areas In New York are experiencing subsidence at almost three times that rate.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in collaboration with Rutgers’ University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, undertook a careful analysis of vertical land movements across New York City from 2016 to 2023. They used a leveraging advanced interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) technology to create precise 3D mappings of the ground beneath the city. This technology allowed scientists to measure the land’s motion over time. The results reveal intricate details of the city’s geological dynamics.
“We have found that there are some spots that are sinking much faster than others and this is, of course, making flooding concerns of greater concern in certain areas,” says an earth scientist at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory, Brett Buzzanga.
Arthur Ashe Stadium and LaGuardia Airport Are Hotspots!
Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s largest tennis arena, emerged as a major subsidence hotspot. It is sinking nearly three times faster than the city’s average, at about 4.1 millimeters per year. Similarly, the land at LaGuardia Airport in northern Queens is subsiding faster than average. The findings highlight a higher risk for flooding concerns in these areas. These accelerated rates of subsidence are mainly linked to the construction of these structures in landfills. They impact the land’s stability and make them gullible to future environmental changes and sea-level rise.
“We also see that the Arthur Ashe Stadium is sinking quite fast and we know a few years ago that they had to have a special roof built because they knew about this problem. So it’s a very nice light cloth roof that they use there,” says Brett Buzzanga.
New York City is sinking at the same time that sea levels around the world are rising. These neighborhoods are sinking the fastest. https://t.co/WUK7xWSOLr— ABC News (@ABC) October 2, 2023
Land Is Rising!
Remarkably, the study also unveiled regions experiencing land uplift. East Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Woodside in Queens saw the land rising. Not only that. Woodside experienced a notable uplift of 0.27 inches (6.9 millimeters) per year between 2016 and 2019 before stabilizing. Groundwater pumping and injection wells are being examined as potential catalysts for this short-term uplift. The findings also underline the complexity of environmental interactions within urban landscapes.
The high-resolution InSAR technology has unraveled slight and previously unseen features of land motion. It gives invaluable insights into urban planning and environmental management. Understanding these movements is crucial. Especially in the context of increasing global sea levels and extreme weather conditions, which could worsen the impacts.
Influence of Human Activities and Environmental Factors
New York City’s overall subsidence is attributed to natural geological processes like glacial isostatic adjustment. Apart from this, localized variations have also been discovered. They point to the influence of human activities and environmental factors.
About 24,000 years ago, the land beneath New England was depressed due to the huge weight of ice sheets. Areas including New York City moved upwards slightly to compensate. With the melting of the ice, the land is now reverting to its normal levels.
These insights set the stage for proactive measures and informed decision-making. They can help in mitigating the potential repercussions of land subsidence and uplift on infrastructure, ecosystems, and communities. The upcoming NASA-Indian Space Research Organization Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission is balanced to continue studies on surface displacement across the globe. It will provide important data that will guide future planning and conservation efforts.
Did you get a sinking feeling during this year's #USOpen? 😨— TENNIS (@Tennis) September 29, 2023
That might be because Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s largest arena, is actually sinking.
A NASA-led study revealed it's sinking at a rate 3️⃣ times faster than the rest of the city.
The subtle land movements beneath New York City, marked by both sinking and rising, illustrate the complex interplay between natural and human-induced environmental changes. The groundbreaking findings from this study stress the need for continued research and innovative solutions.
The discoveries of areas sinking three times faster than others, and the land uplift phenomena, are reminders of the nature of the environment we inhabit.