WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- Sea levels are rising, and according to a new study, Washington, D.C., is quickly sinking. The combination could be potentially problematic for those living in the nation's capital.
Tides around the Chesapeake Bay have been rising at twice the pace of the global rate, leading researchers to believe land beneath the water is sinking.
Scientists hypothesized the landmass in the region had long been buoyed by a pre-historic ice sheet to the north, and that the region has been slowly dropping back into position since the ice melted.
Observations made during recent drilling expeditions in Maryland -- led by a team of geologists from the University of Vermont -- have confirmed scientists' hypothesis. The work was aided by high-resolution LiDAR and GPS map data.
Unlike places like Mexico City and California, where sinking problems are largely manmade -- the result of the usage pressure on groundwater -- the District's problem is a natural phenomenon. And it's one likely to last for 10,000 years.
Researchers predict Washington, D.C., could sink as much as six inches by the end of the century, exacerbating increased flooding risks brought on by global warming and rising seas.
Scientists call the District's problem "forebulge collapse."
"It's a bit like sitting on one side of a water bed filled with very thick honey," explained Ben DeJong, a doctoral student at Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, "then the other side goes up. But when you stand, the bulge comes down again."
DeJong is the lead author of a new study on the findings, published this week in the publication GSA Today.
"It's ironic that the nation's capital -- the place least responsive to the dangers of climate change -- is sitting in one of the worst spots it could be in terms of this land subsidence," said senior study author Paul Bierman, a Vermont geologist. "Will the Congress just sit there with their feet getting ever wetter? What's next, forebulge denial?"