Washington DC Sinking Fast According to Recent Study

Data from a recent study published in the Geological Society of America’s online journal, GSA Today,  shows Washington DC sinking at an alarming rate. Scientists predict that rising sea levels, coupled with settling land beneath the Chesepeake Bay to one day sink the nation’s capital.

A Big “I Told You So”

As it turns out, the idea of Washington DC sinking into its surrounding waters has been guessed at by geologists for generations, due to signs that the land beneath Chesapeake Bay has been settling for quite some time now. Thousands of years ago, an ice sheet pushed up the land beneath Chesapeake—and since the ice melted, it has been settling back down, with Washington DC sinking more every year. “It’s a bit like sitting on one side of a water bed,” says lead researcher Ben Dejong, PhD of the University of Vermont, “filled with very thick honey.

Tide gauges in Chesapeake have also been recording rising sea levels at more than twice the global average rate for more than 60 years—a faster rate than that seen anywhere else on the East Coast.

New Study Shows Proof of Washington DC Sinking

A research team from the University of Vermont, led by Ben DeJong conducted the first thorough geological drilling expedition in Maryland in order to prove these hypotheses. The results of the study are staggering, showing Washington DC sinking at a shocking and unprecedented rate.

The new data collected from the geological drilling samples show that the US capital will sink by at least six inches—a number that DeJong takes very seriously: “Right now is the time to start making preparations. Six extra inches of water really matters in this part of the world.”

The data shows no indications of the rising sea levels having been caused by human means. Instead, natural causes such as groundwater withdrawal, and the settling of land after ancient ice sheets had melted to be the reasons behind Washington DC sinking—two processes that have been occurring for some 20,000 years now, and show no indication of stopping.

Impact on Washington

A symbol of enormous national historical significance, not to mention one of the most tourist-driven economies in the US, officials are already looking for ways in which to prevent rising sea levels from destroying the city’s landmarks and infrastructure. With Washington DC sinking at such a rate, national monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial , as well as a number of important government buildings including the Library of Congress and the White House are at risk of being flooded—not to mention the entirety of the city’s roads, buildings, wildlife sanctuaries and military installations.

“It is ironic,” says Paul Bierman, geomorphologist and geochemist at the University of Vermont, and one of the lead authors on the research team’s paper, “that the nation’s capital – the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change – is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be in terms of this land subsidence.”


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