Mapping the global threat of land subsidence

By: , and 



Subsidence, the lowering of Earth's land surface, is a potentially destructive hazard that can be caused by a wide range of natural or anthropogenic triggers but mainly results from solid or fluid mobilization underground. Subsidence due to groundwater depletion (1) is a slow and gradual process that develops on large time scales (months to years), producing progressive loss of land elevation (centimeters to decimeters per year) typically over very large areas (tens to thousands of square kilometers) and variably affects urban and agricultural areas worldwide. Subsidence permanently reduces aquifer-system storage capacity, causes earth fissures, damages buildings and civil infrastructure, and increases flood susceptibility and risk. During the next decades, global population and economic growth will continue to increase groundwater demand and accompanying groundwater depletion (2) and, when exacerbated by droughts (3), will probably increase land subsidence occurrence and related damages or impacts. To raise awareness and inform decision-making, we evaluate potential global subsidence due to groundwater depletion, a key first step toward formulating effective land-subsidence policies that are lacking in most countries worldwide.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mapping the global threat of land subsidence
Series title Science
DOI 10.1126/science.abb8549
Volume 371
Issue 6524
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center, WMA - Earth System Processes Division
Description 3 p.
First page 34
Last page 36
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