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The sinking city: Maps show Venice may be underwater soon

July 31, 2023  - By
Venice arose after the fall of the Roman Empire. The city holds 450 palaces, more than 400 bridges and is home to the notable St. Mark’s Basilica. It is also known for its many canals, which are full of gondolas the way the streets of other cities are full of taxis or rickshaws. (Image: Freeartist/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Venice arose after the fall of the Roman Empire. The city holds 450 palaces, more than 400 bridges and is home to the notable St. Mark’s Basilica. It is also known for its many canals, which are full of gondolas the way the streets of other cities are full of taxis or rickshaws. (Image: Freeartist/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

It is hard to believe that Italy’s “floating city” could be underwater soon.

The average rate of relative sea-level rise is 2.5 mm/year, per the European Geosciences Union’s journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. This photo of Venice from the European Space Agency (ESA) was taken in 2008 by Ikonos-2, a commercial satellite (Image: ESA)

The average rate of relative sea-level rise is 2.5 mm/year, per the European Geosciences Union’s journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. This photo of Venice from the European Space Agency (ESA) was taken in 2008 by Ikonos-2, a commercial satellite (Image: ESA)

Predictions for the future of the city vary, but most scientists agree that the sea level is rising due to climate change. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, an interdisciplinary journal of the European Geosciences Union, published a report in 2021 suggesting the average sea level could be between 17 cm and 120 cm higher in Venice by 2100.

Venice was built in the middle of a shallow lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Therefore, it has always been at risk of flooding or “acqua alta,” meaning high water. There is evidence of severe flooding dating back to around the 8th century.

The Venetian lagoon is more than 500 km2 in total, but has an average depth of only 1 m, according to Royal Museums-Greenwich. High tides and severe storms have a devastating impact on the wetland environment on which Venice is built.

Compared to the image of Venice in 2008, this U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) satellite image of Venice from May 2023 shows the rise in sea level within the past 15 years. (Image: USGS)

Compared to the image of Venice in 2008, this U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) satellite image of Venice from May 2023 shows the rise in sea level within the past 15 years. (Image: USGS)

In November 2019, Venice experienced the second-worst flooding event in almost 100 years. The tide reached 187 cm (6.1 ft) above sea level, covering 80% of the city in water, reported the BBC.

City records show there have been 324 intense high-water events since 1872 and more than half of those have been in the past 30 years. Among the many and vast consequences of human-caused climate change may be the end of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Only time will tell the fate of Venice.

This article is tagged with , and posted in Featured Stories, From the Magazine, Latest News, Mapping

About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.