Fast-Sinking Texas City Could 'Disappear' In 80 Years

By Dani Medina

April 29, 2022

Photo: Getty Images

A new study found that some of the world's largest cities are at risk of sinking, some even "disappearing" as sea levels continue to rise.

At least 33 cities around the world are sinking at a rate of more than 1 centimeter a year, according to MySanAntonio, citing a report from the World Economic Forum. That's five times the rate of sea level rise.

Houston is the 10th-fastest sinking city in the world at 1.95 cm per year. It's the only city in the Western Hemisphere to crack the top 10. Houston's current rate of sinking combined with rising sea levels could cause the city to "disappear" by the year 2100.

Tianjin, China, is the fastest-sinking city in the world at 5.22 cm per year.

"The more Houston sinks, the more vulnerable it becomes to increasingly frequent disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which damaged nearly 135,000 homes and displaced around 30,000 people," the World Economic Forum said.

This sinking phenomenon is brought about by a process called subsidence where land settles and compacts based on changes to materials below the earth's surface, according to the World Economic Forum. It's typically brought about and accelerated by human activity, like groundwater pumping, oil and gas drilling and rapid construction.

The solution? Subsidence can't be reversed. But it can be slowed down. For example, tight regulation from the Indonesian government on extracting groundwater has allowed the city of Jakarta to go from sinking at up to 28 cm a year 30 years ago to 3 cm a year in the last seven years.

Read the full report here.

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