Venice is famed for being known as “The Floating City”, but that moniker may soon be a thing of the past as scientists report that the famed destination is sinking into the water more than five times faster than previously thought. The city is also gradually tilting eastwards into the Adriatic Sea due to more frequent flooding.
Over the past decade, there have been several measures that have been taken to stop Venice from sinking into the sea — including the Venice Tide Barrier — and it was believed that the water levels had stabilized. But according to a team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the city has submerged and tilted to the east by an unprecedented 2mm per year over the last decade. It was previously believed that Venice was submerging by only 0.04mm per year. Moreover, certain northern sections are dropping between 2 to 3mm per year, while the southern lagoon is falling away by 3 to 4mm over the same period.
“Venice appears to be continuing to subside. It’s a small effect, but it’s important,” said Yehuda Bock, research geodesist with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego who believes the current subsidence is due to natural causes, such as plate tectonics. “The Adriatic plate, which includes Venice, subducts beneath the Apennines Mountains and causes the city and its environs to drop slightly in elevation.”
While the frequency of floods in Venice has increased, experts at Consorzio Venezia Nuova, a group in charge of safeguarding Venice and the lagoon, have highlighted concerns about the report.
“We have records of the subsiding of Venice for hundreds of years, and yet they (the research team) haven’t called us,” a source told NBC News. “We have calculated the city has been sinking 3 to 4cms per century. Now they say 2mm per year… that means Venice would sink 20cm every 100 years. That’s more than five times more than we calculated. So I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“A multi-billion-dollar effort to install flood-protection walls that can be raised to block incoming tides is nearing completion. The adjustable barriers were designed to protect the city from tides that are coming in higher as overall sea levels are rising in response to climate change,” he said.
So do the Venice authorities have their head in the sand or will the tide barrier be enough to reverse Venice’s misfortunes?
+ Scripps Institution of Oceanography