New Paper Says That the Bay Area Is Sinking

March 13, 2018
Churning waters on coastline
Photo: Unsplash

A new study out today in Science Advances says that coastal land in the Bay Area is sinking, concurrent with rising sea levels. Models show that nearly 50 square miles or more could be underwater by 2100.

“There is no permanent solution to this problem,” Arizona State University geophysicist Manoochehr Shirzaei, lead author of the paper, tells Wired. “This will impact us one way or another. The forces are immense, it's a very powerful process, the cost of really dealing with it is huge, and it requires long-term planning. I'm not so sure there's a good way to avoid it.”

The problem is a geological phenomenon called subsidence. Different kinds of land sink at different rates. Take, for instance, Treasure Island, which resides between San Francisco and Oakland. It’s an artificial island made of landfill, and it’s sinking fast, at a rate of a third of an inch a year. San Francisco Airport is also sinking fast and could see half its runways and taxiways underwater by 2100, according to the new analysis ... Humans have induced subsidence at an astonishing scale by rapidly depleting aquifers. 

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