How Long Until Bangkok Sinks Underwater?


Let’s face it, if the generations of this century don’t make a mammoth effort to halt global warming instead of worshipping profit and economic growth, we will probably be looked back on a few hundred years from now as the dumbest generation of people in Earth’s history.

Anders Levermann, who is a sea-level-rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that “In hundreds of years from now, people will look back and say, ‘Yeah, the sea level is rising; it will continue to rise; we live with a constant rise of sea level because of those people 200 years ago who used coal, oil and gas,’ ”

If you take a look at the graphs and facts to support global warming – before 1880, (after which temperatures have been rising at alarming rates) there were no drastic temperature changes the like of which we can see now, during the previous 2,000 years, apart from the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age. The type of people who will tell you that they think it’s all a coincidence will be either business owners, families with four cars on the driveway, or people that believe in conspiracy theories or that the X-Files is a documentary about real events, rather than a fictional series.

For Bangkok residents, as if this weren’t enough to worry about, there are visual signs everywhere that Bangkok is sinking. Look at any deserted property and you’ll see a huge gaping space underneath it. House owners will be familiar with having to get trucks to deliver soil to raise land and builders in to fill in the holes and cracks due to the sinking of the land. This is due to a depletion in ground water and surface erosion due to urban sprawl. Also, Bangkok is built on clay rather than bedrock, canals have been filled in in the past and were replaced by roads to cut down on Malaria and as a more superior mode of transport, groundwater is being pumped out to supply both residential areas and industrial areas and the Chao Phraya Delta which has sunk 15 cm due to dams and climate change.

So, yes, Bangkok is sinking, that’s a fact, and it’s not the only capital city that’s sinking, as Cairo, New York, Tokyo as well as many other cities are sinking too. It’s hard to get an accurate prediction on when Bangkok will sink below sea level, as different studies vary. So, let’s also make a well rounded prediction based on recent studies.

Various studies predict that sea levels could rise between 0.5 metres to 1.5 metres in this century alone, depending on the study you examine, so let’s go with the mean number and say that it will rise by 1 metre by the end of this century. Itthi Trisirisattayawong during a seminar at Chulalongkorn University stated that Bangkok is sinking at between 20.1 cm and 28 cm per year; while other studies suggest a rate of 1.5 to 5 cm per year. That’s a huge difference and does not help predictions at all. So, by examining abandoned buildings we measured that the ground had visibly sunk by about 1.5 cm every year since they were built.

We can now make a conservative assumption that the ground below Bangkok is sinking at about 1.5 cm per year and that sea levels are rising at around 1 cm per year. Bangkok is mainly 12 metres above sea level, so let’s crunch the simple math . . .

12 metres divided by the combination of land sinkage and sea level rise, which is 2.5 cm per year, tells us that it it will take 480 years for Bangkok to sink below sea level. This means that we have to seriously worry leading up to the year 2496 😉

So the next time you see someone stressing out saying “Bangkok is sinking! It will be underwater soon! Better buy a boat and a house/condo on a hill in the countryside fast!”, sit them down, make them a nice cup of calming herbal tea and break the rather undramatic news to them that this process will take 480 years . . .






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