Sunday, April 15, 2018

That sinking Roman feeling

An article at The Guardian talks about the increasing number of disastrous sinkholes appearing in Rome - associated, it seems, with increased rainfall:
It’s not a new phenomenon: there have been an average of 90 sinkholes a year in Rome since 2010. In 2013, there were 104 and 2018 will surely surpass even that record. The problem is clearly getting worse: the streets are beginning to look like black emmenthal and everyone in Italy is wondering why the earth seems, in the words of the Jewish prophet Isaiah, “to stagger like a drunken man”.

Some blame the rain. Romans are used to wearing sunglasses all winter, but this has been the wettest six months in living memory. There have been plenty of what are melodramatically called bombe d’acqua, water bombs. In September last year, flooded subways were closed as rivers cascaded down the escalators and stations became huge shower rooms with water gushing through ceiling cracks. Thousands of cars were in water up to their wing mirrors.

In November – and this is a sure sign things are serious – Lazio’s football match against Udinese was postponed due to torrential rain. Last week, there was more flooding of the subway. In the past month, central Italy has had 141% more “anomalous rainfall” than average.
It then goes on to talk about Rome's geology (built on soft sediments), but it fails to mention something that was dealt with on a BBC documentary that I mentioned last year:  the extraordinary degree to which modern day Rome is built on top of ancient, underground quarries and other empty spaces.  (Oh, I see the link in my previous post no longer works - here's one to the BBC showing just one clip.)  Anyway, there was one map on that show that indicated that Rome was like swiss cheese below ground - not just aqueducts and sewers, but vast cavernous spaces carved out 2,000 years ago.  No wonder heavy rain is causing problems.   


anon said...

Hey and here I was thinking your theory of everything - global warming- was the culprit. How new!

Steve said...

Um, I thought it virtually went without saying that an increase in extreme rainfall events is a prediction of global warming. Hence, even if a city is not on the coast, global warming may cause some of them serious issues, even apart from direct flooding.