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article imageYes, for a multitude of reasons, Venice is really sinking

By Karen Graham     Nov 18, 2019 in Environment
Venice - Most of us already know that Venice is sinking - However, the city has now become the poster child of the problems facing all coastal cities. "Acqua alta" conditions, the term locals use for when the water gets high, has become all too frequent.
After a week of unprecedented flooding, Venetians breathed a sigh of relief on Monday.
The fact that people were able to smile today is a testament to the determination, ingenuity, and grit of the citizens of the centuries-old city that was built was built in a lagoon.
The high of 110-115 cm (3.6-3.7 feet) of water expected midday in Venice today was a welcome improvement after the past week when the so-called "acqua alta," or high waters, exceeded a level of 150 cm three times. Yes, Venice is sinking and peer review studies using satellite-based techniques confirm the trends.
Venice is home to some 50 000 residents but receives 36 million global visitors each year.
Venice is home to some 50,000 residents but receives 36 million global visitors each year.
Filippo MONTEFORTE, AFP
Climate change impacts
Today, the city of Venice is being conquered by a multitude of problems, many of them man-made. We can chalk-up land subsidence due to the removal of groundwater supplies over the centuries, high tides, rainfall, and 100-year-floods, but now we have to factor in the consequences of man-made climate change.
And this is important because climate change impacts do not happen in isolation. According to Dr. Marshall Shephard, a leading international expert in weather and climate, and the director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program - "climate scientists are well-versed in the naturally occurring variables associated with climate."
However, He says "they are also well-versed in the notion that in the relatively short time that a new climate stimulus has been around us, things are going to function differently."
Much of Venice was left under water this week after the highest tide in 50 years ripped through the ...
Much of Venice was left under water this week after the highest tide in 50 years ripped through the historic Italian city
Filippo MONTEFORTE, AFP
So, let's get back to Venice and its issues. Venice is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges in a shallow lagoon. While there are no historical records that deal directly with the founding of Venice, suffice to say the traditional founding is identified with the dedication of the first church, that of San Giacomo on the islet of Rialto at the stroke of noon on March 25, 421.
The early inhabitants of the city built their homes on top of alder tree trunks, sunk deep into the lagoon until bedrock was hit. To protect against invaders from the mainland, they also diverted the waters from rivers that flowed into the lagoon - preventing sediment from filling the area around the city.
During the 20th century, when many artesian wells were sunk into the periphery of the lagoon to draw water for the local industry, Venice began to subside. It was realized that removing water from the aquifer was the cause of the sinking so a ban on artesian wells was instituted in the 1960s.
Aerial view of Venice with the bridge to the mainland.
Aerial view of Venice with the bridge to the mainland.
Chris 73 (CC BY-SA 3.0)
What does the future hold?
Today, also, the 100-year-floods that inundated the city are occurring with greater frequency. According to The Guardian, the latest flooding of the church of San Marco is only the sixth recorded time the church has flooded in the last 1200 years, but the fourth time in the last 20 years.
This could become far more common by 2100, recurring every five months, according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But the bigger issue: Venice is sinking. That means flood recurrence periods, calculated for the IPCC report, are on the conservative side.
An Italian fire and rescue service picure shows the damaged River Countess tourist boat and the MSC ...
An Italian fire and rescue service picure shows the damaged River Countess tourist boat and the MSC Opera after a collision which sparked renewed debate about large ships docking in Venice
Handout, Vigili del Fuoco/AFP
Today, like the Venetians of old, people are still trying to hold back the tides and keep the city from sinking. The Project Moses is a linked system of 78 gates, proposed in the 1980s. Work began in 2003. Corruption scandals and incompetent management delayed completion, but it's scheduled to be fully operational by 2022.
"It's a city full of history," said Vladimiro Cavagnis, a fourth-generation Venetian gondolier who chauffeurs tourists on the city's trademark boats. "A history that, little by little, with water, will end up like Atlantis. People are destroyed, anguished, sad. They see a city that is disappearing."
More about Venice, groundwater depletion, subsidence, Sea level rise, Climate crisis
 
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