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The Sinking City: New York's Battle with Climate Change and Heavy Buildings

New York City is sinking under the weight of its own buildings while simultaneously grappling with the climate crisis that leads to more frequent and extreme rainfall events, according to a new study published in the journal Earth's Future. With sea levels around NYC rising more than twice as fast as the global rate, projected to rise between 8 inches and 30 inches by 2050, the city faces a daunting challenge.

The study, led by Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist at the US Geological Survey, calculated the mass of 1,084,954 buildings in NYC, weighing about 1.68 trillion pounds (762 billion kilograms). Using simulations and satellite data, they discovered that the city is sinking at an average rate of 1 to 2 millimeters a year, with some areas sinking up to 4.5 millimeters a year. Subsidence, the sinking or settling of Earth's surface, is a global issue affecting 44 of the 48 most populous coastal cities, including lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, which are sinking at a faster than average rate.

Sophie Coulson, a geophysicist, emphasizes the importance of understanding landscape changes and identifying vulnerable areas for flood mitigation and sea level rise preparation. The study suggests that subsidence can pose an earlier flooding threat than sea level rise, not just in NYC but globally.