HomeTop StoriesChinese cities are sinking into the earth, scientists say

Chinese cities are sinking into the earth, scientists say

Sinking feeling

A new study has discovered that a staggering number of Chinese cities are sinking into the Earth.

According to the study, which was conducted by a team of more than 50 Chinese scientists using radar observations and published this week in the journal ScienceNearly half of China’s 82 major cities are experiencing rapid subsidence.

Subsidence, or the scientific term for the actual sinking of the Earth’s surface into itself, is a serious problem. Not only does it pose clear infrastructure and security risks, but also… NPR notes that sinking land is also known to exacerbate the problem of already rising coastlines. And according to these researchers’ estimates, the extreme sinking seen in China could mean that about a quarter of the country’s coastal areas will be below sea level by the year 2120.

Combine the problem of sinking cities with China’s enormous population, and as the researchers point out in their study, you have a recipe for human and infrastructure disaster.

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“Even a small amount of land subsidence in China,” the researchers write, “could therefore translate into a substantial threat to urban life.”

Global care

Land subsidence is not just a problem in China. Countries around the world are experiencing worrying levels of land subsidence, and in January a satellite survey revealed that major population centers on the US east coast are similarly collapsing into the earth, as are Gulf cities like New Orleans and Houston.

“This is a big problem,” said Robert Nicholls, a professor of climate adaptation at the University of East Anglia in England, who was not involved in the study. NPR. “The scale is big.”

“Without a doubt,” he added, “this new research shows that this is not a local problem. This is a national or even international problem.”

But while land sinking is an international problem, cities in Asia may be uniquely at risk. As Nicholls reportedly told NPRAsian cities are typically built in river deltas, which are particularly prone to subsidence. The Indonesian capital Jakarta, for example, is built on a river delta and is sinking below sea level at a very alarming rate.

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In short: land subsidence is a growing threat. And while combating land subsidence is a complicated solution, this latest study highlights how important these mitigation efforts could be in protecting land for future generations.

“Our results underline the need to improve protective measures,” the researchers write, “to limit potential damage from subsidence.”

More about land subsidence: Satellites show that the East Coast is sinking

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