Venice grapples with sea-level rise

Venice is struggling with rising sea levels.

Rick Docksai | Jan 13, 2020

Venetian Mayor Luidi Brugnaro said that his city is "on its knees" in the midst of unprecedented flooding this month, as fears surge of irreparable damage to some of the city's most prized historic buildings and statues. The acclaimed city on the water is now combating rising sea levels and sinking building foundations, with more extreme flooding expected in years to come.

Water levels rose to nearly 5 feet three times in a single week, after never having done so even twice in a single year. The sea level is rising, according to Venice's tidy monitoring service, which reported that the ocean is more than 10 inches higher today than it was in 1870. Coupled with this, the city's foundations are sinking gradually into the underlying mud and marshland.

City officials blame climate change. Brugnaro has urged climate scientists to visit Venice to see an example of the effects of runaway greenhouse-gas emissions on human life.

"We need scientists here, they need to come here and create a permanent place where they can study what is happening here, because of climate change, with all its effects Venice is a frontier," he said.

But human construction projects in the twentieth century may also be a factor. Local industries pumped water out of an aquifer beneath the city for decades until the 1970s, while the city rapidly built new ports along the mainland and widened and deepened the channels to enable larger ships to dock. All of these activities may have disrupted the natural flow of water in and out of the area and exacerbated the high-tide events, according to experts.

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