Chas Jones, Ph.D.

Groundwater

Sinkhole research – Potential opportunities

Sinkhole research opportunities

Guatemala sinkhole: a missed sinkhole research opportunity for me.

By Ker Than for National Geographic News
Published June 1, 2010
A huge sinkhole in Guatemala City (map), Guatemala, crashed into being on Sunday, reportedly swallowing a three-story building—and echoing a similar, 2007 sinkhole in Guatemala. Click on the photo for the actual article.

Sinkhole research could help many communities that have already experienced problems with them, but may also help communities avoid sinkhole hazards in the future. Sinkholes and other hydrology-related disasters fascinate me. I would like to explore the specific causes of sinkhole formation and opportunities for detecting sinkholes, such as the use of electromagnetic imaging or ground penetrating radar. Both of these techniques can be used to measure changes in density beneath the ground from a helicopter. Researchers use them to monitor permafrost degradation and subsurface geologic features.

Earlier this week, there was a video of a sinkhole that was swallowing a number of trees in a Louisiana swamp. The sinkhole had been swallowing a lot of land around a former salt mine and has been releasing a lot of methane during the least a year.  Check it out here: Raw: Louisiana Sinkhole Swallows Giant Trees – YouTube.

There is a growing source of images and videos related to sinkholes on the internet.  I do not know if the frequency of occurrence of sinkholes is increasing, however, as it is very likely and possible that we are simply much better at sharing information very quickly these days.  Regardless, families that have been affected by sinkholes would be very grateful for additional information about how to minimize risk from future calamity. Even more importantly, if a sinkhole was identified and a family saved before a disaster, the rewards would certainly be many times greater. Anyhow, this is one subject that I’ll keep my eyes on in the future, because we just never know when or where the next disaster may strike.

Chas…