A new study found that Washington D.C. may drop by approximately six or more inches in the next 100 years as researchers discovered that the land under the Chesapeake Bay is sinking slowly. The falling of this land may contribute significantly to the problems of sea level rise and all the more increase the possibility of flooding, which is a growing problem of the country due to global warming and subsequent ice melting. Adding all these circumstances may hasten the hazards faced by infrastructures, roads, wildlife refugees, monuments and military installations.
The researchers from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Geological Survey, Utah State University, Berkeley Geochronology Center, and Imperial College, London performed the experiment by drilling a total of 70 boreholes in the surroundings of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, majority of which have a depth of about 100 feet. The said location where the geologists drilled holes is near Washington and is on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. The researchers then analyzed the layers of the sediment deep within its core. They utilized various technologies to come up with the ages of the sand, rocks and organic elements found in the individual layers of the land. The calculations yielded from the investigations of the team were then combined with the data from the LiDAR and GPS map to devise an intricate 3D portrait that simulates the past (post-glacial period dating millions of years back) and present conditions of the Chesapeake.
The findings of the study, published in the journal The Geological Society of America (GSA) Today, was able to answer the hypothesis of the researchers, which is the settling of the land in the area since the ice meltdown after it was moved up north due to the force of a pre-historic ice sheet. The researchers were able to find evidence of how the decline is occurring, as well as the dissociation of such event with human influences. They were able to discover that the drop has been an effect of a geological process that has been running for many years and will persists in the long-term, regardless of human interventions or climate change.
"It's a bit like sitting on one side of a water bed filled with very thick honey and subjecting the other side to go up," says Ben DeJong, lead author of the new study and a doctoral student at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. "But when the individual stands, the elevated area drops again." According to him, the best time to plan and implement protective interventions is now as several inches of water elevation - six inches to be exact - in this area is crucial.