In Norfolk, Virginia’s second-largest city, with 250,000 residents, Faella’s concerns aren’t the isolated fears of one woman living on the river’s edge. The entire city is worried. Miles of waterways that add to Norfolk’s charm are also a major threat in the era of increased global warming and relative rising sea levels, as well as its odd and unique sinking ground.Problems with subsidence, however, are not unique to Norfolk. Sections of North Carolina also have a history of sinking. The NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources commissioned a study in 1993 that showed that Kinston and New Bern subsided at a rate of just over .15 inches per year from 1935-1978/9.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that Hampton Roads, anchored by Norfolk, is at the greatest risk from sea-level rise for a metro area its size, save for New Orleans.
NC land subsidence is actually a feature in the larger global debate on sea-level rise. Global-warming skeptics cite NC's history of subsidence as one reason why measured sea-level rise may be less than it appears.
As Norfolk's soggy experience shows, the academic debate over whether sinking land or rising seas contributes more to relative sea-level changes doesn't matter much in coastal communities.