10 Coastal Cities Sinking Into the Ocean, One in the U.S.

“Land subsidence” might be a new term for you. However, residents in certain coastal cities are all too familiar with the concept of sinking land.

What causes sinking land, you ask? In the case of the ten cities on this list, it has little to do with cyclical climate patterns and almost everything, if not everything, to do with humans: Buildings that are too heavy for the ground to support and people extracting too much groundwater are the main culprits.

Mindfully American gathered data that was featured in Nature Sustainability to put together this list of the world’s fastest-sinking coastal cities.

Sinking Land

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To determine which coastal cities are sinking the fastest, researchers used satellite radar. They chose the 48 largest coastal cities in the world, honing in on ten that are at especially high risk of fast rates of land sinking.

That said, any land subsidence is bad; there are many cities not on this list that are also experiencing sinking, albeit at a slower rate. The United States is no different. One American city is on this list, but many more have land subsidence issues.

Two metrics went into this land subsidence study: peak velocity and median velocity, both of which scientists measured in millimeters (mm) per year. The higher the number, the faster the rate of sinking. They based the final rankings on the peak velocity, which is why you’ll see variations in the median velocity in the following rankings.

1: Tianjin, China

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  • Peak Velocity: 43 mm
  • Median Velocity: 6 mm

2: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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  • Peak Velocity: 43 mm
  • Median Velocity: 16 mm

3: Chittagong, Bangladesh

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  • Peak Velocity: 37 mm
  • Median Velocity: 12 mm

4: Yangon, Myanmar

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  • Peak Velocity: 31 mm
  • Median Velocity: 4 mm

5: Jakarta, Indonesia

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  • Peak Velocity: 26 mm
  • Median Velocity: 5 mm

6: Ahmedabad, India

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  • Peak Velocity: 23 mm
  • Median Velocity: 5 mm

7: Istanbul, Turkey

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  • Peak Velocity: 19 mm
  • Median Velocity: 6 mm
Downtown Houston.

8: Houston, United States

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  • Peak Velocity: 17 mm
  • Median Velocity: 3 mm

9: Lagos, Nigeria

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  • Peak Velocity: 17 mm
  • Median Velocity: 2 mm

10: Manila, Philippines

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  • Peak Velocity: 17 mm
  • Median Velocity: 2 mm

Zeroing in on Tianjin

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Tianjin has among the most aggressive rates of land subsidence among major coastal cities in the world. Experts point their fingers at geothermal well drilling, which started in 1979. Since then, locals have drilled over 70 wells, and the result has been devastating.

The silver lining? Data shows that the rate of land subsidence is declining thanks to efforts locals have taken to reverse the issue.

From All Angles

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According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the excessive removal of subsurface water is one of the most common causes of land subsidence in the U.S. It’s far from the only culprit, though.

Other things that can contribute to land subsidence are:

  • Aquifer-system compaction
  • Organic soil drainage
  • Underground mining
  • Hydrocompaction
  • Natural compaction
  • Thawing permafrost
  • Sinkholes

Sinking America

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Houston isn’t the only area in the U.S. suffering from land subsidence. Over 17,000 square miles of American soil have sunk due to human-led causes. That’s approximately the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

Arid Southwest areas and humid Southern states are often at the highest risk of land subsidence when humans fail to control the extraction of groundwater and perform other practices that cause land to sink.

Silver Lining

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Land subsidence is a threat to citizens across the globe, but it isn’t all gloom and doom. When excessive groundwater extraction is a leading cause of sinking land, cities can put water back into the ground. The process of doing so is called managed aquifer recharge.

Case in point? Coachella Valley’s land experienced as much as a 2-foot sink between 1995 and 2010. However, by using water from the Colorado River, golf courses, farms, and other non-drinkable water sources, conservationists were able to slow subsidence rates by as much as 75% in many areas. In the northern part of the valley, the land even rose 2.3 inches.

Most to Least Expensive States To Retire

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Are you hoping to settle down in a cheaper state during retirement? These are the states to consider and, equally important, those you’re better off avoiding.

Most to Least Expensive States to Retire Ranked From 1 to 50

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Palm trees in Los Angeles.
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We all have our vices, but not every city is notorious for its transgression. From the dazzling lights of Las Vegas to the vibrant streets of Miami, these are the most mischievous urban hubs in America.

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