Venice and its famous watery canals are no strangers to rising water levels, but it was assumed that the slightly higher water levels observed year after year could be attributed to the same sea-level rise seen elsewhere in the world. According to a new study, there’s more to it than that.
In the last century, it was believed that Venice was sinking due to underground deposits of water being released out into the ocean, but evidence at the time suggested that the process had stopped altogether, and Venice was no longer in danger of eventually plunging into the ocean.
As it turns out, that may not be true. A team consisting of researchers from the U.S. and Italy, utilizing readings from satellites, noticed that Venice is still sinking. What’s more, the satellite seems to suggest that Venice is not only sinking, but also beginning to tilt towards the east.
“Venice appears to be continuing to subside, at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year,” said Yehuda Bock, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego, in La Jolla, Calif., and the lead author of the article. “It’s a small effect, but it’s important.”
The fairly consistent increase in water levels around Venice has caused flooding to increase in both severity and frequency, the study notes, and the slow-but-sure sinking of the famous City of Water isn’t exactly going to make things any better–but don’t look for any noticeable change resulting from the slow sinking of Venice anytime soon.
“One millimeter is nothing with respect to the problem that Venice experienced 20, 30 years ago,” said Pietro Teatini, a researcher with the University of Padova in Italy, who has also studied the movements of the ground around Venice but was not involved in the current study. “It’s a small amount.”