Melting away in time

Some predict that as the polar ice caps melt major cities such as London, New York and Bangkok will be flooded.

How are we to determine if such a future is in store? And how quickly it might become reality?

To understand the likelihood of such an event, and perhaps how quickly it might be likely to occur – some understanding of the historical  and contemporary geological setting of the cities is useful.

It is believed that the continent of Britain was formed some 200,000 years ago during a megaflood event.

What is happening today? Does the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano have any relevance for Londoners apart from air traffic disruption?

(Geology experts most welcome to comment!)

15 thoughts on “Melting away in time

  1. Tom Turner

    What a serene photograph – I would like to hear from the artist/photographer exactly how it was done. IF they are right about global warming something like this is sure to happen somewhere and sometime, probably in Holland, Bangladesh or Vietnam before it happens to NYC. But I wonder if it will be so serenely Venetian. Might the blocks start toppling over when their foundations are saturated?

  2. Christine

    Yes it would be interesting to know how the photograph was created. There are also some amazing photographs taken of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption…
    [ ] which some very adventurous soul must have taken.

    To understand the failure mode of the highrise buildings in New York (which I believe are built on rock) in extreme flood conditions you would need to speak to a geotechnical engineer.
    [ ]

    All contributions from geotechnical engineers most welcome also!

  3. Tom Turner

    There is some information here about design for flood resistance – which seems to suggest that wave damage is the most likely problem. One can also imagine something of a domino effect once New York City is engulfed by floodwater and the perimeter buildings start to fail. There could also be problems when the steelwork and reinforcement rusts and the concrete bursts. But I have been watching the decay of the steel hull of a Victorian ship for about half a century. It is definitely on the way out but it is a slow process and so long as the concrete skin of a skyscraper column remained intact rusting would be delayed. The Mulberry harbours at Arromanche remain in pretty good condition – so I think there will be no shortage of archaeological remains in NYC for future investigators from the Alpine and Himalayan Islands in the Third Millennium. We can, at least, set our minds at rest about future job opportunities for marine archaeaologists! One also wonders if they might decide to dynamite the buildings and make an artificial island on the tell principle – drawing inspiration from Uruk.

  4. Christine

    Thankyou for the information. According to this information the primary modes of failure in flood conditions generally are floatation, collapse and permanent lateral movement. However, it is hard to keep a good architect from designing….they can design under wet cement (so to speak!)

    Beyond the suggestions given of:
    i) elevating much of the building above the design flood level
    ii) designing the building foundation and any portion subject to flooding to withstand design flood conditions and loads
    iii) using flood resistant materials for any portion of the building below the flood level
    iv) wet or dry flood proofing below the flood level

    there are the possibilities of marine architecture. [ ]

    For example you could always design to allow floatation…Or design an underwater skyscraper [ ]

    I am generally in favour of a new architecture for new conditions. So who will design and build the first marine city?

  5. Tom Turner

    More thought should be given to the design life of a city. I am sorry that so many ancient cities have been ‘renewed’ instead of being abandonned to fauna, flora and archaeologists. We need more Pompeiis – and more Uruks – and more new towns. The automobile industry has the right ideas about this: preserve some antiques; keep building new models; recycle the time-expired trash.
    The above photograph of NYC après-la-deluge is so appealing and so un-NYC: serene, silent and sublime. I think my house, in London, is about 40m above sea level and we would have wonderful views if the level of the Thames rose by 20 or 30 metres. But I don’t want to be selfish about this!

  6. Tom Turner

    You are right and, even though my disposition is optimistic, I do not think my chances of making it to 2100 are good. Also, considering what the Dutch hav achieved, I think it quite possible that London could be defended against a 6m rise in sea level. The Thames is a valley and the ratio between the length of the required barrier and the number of homes which would be protected is much more favourable for London than for the Western Netherlands. It would in fact be a good idea, given the risks, to identify a flood defense line and start taking precautions. With regard to the greatest good of the greatest number, I am willing to do without a good view.

  7. Tom Turner

    Thank you – I am tempted to experiment with flooding London. But, apart from the texture, do you think someone did a cut-out round each building, or do you think they found a way of automating the operation?

  8. Tom Turner

    I better speak to my bank manager about that – and until I saw this photo I believed it impossible to take an attractive photograph of the Atlantis Hotel. Photography is an art.

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