Sinkholes mainly occur in what is known as ‘karst terrain’; areas of land where soluble bedrock (such as limestone or gypsum) can be dissolved by water…

Photo:  The sinkhole above opened up in Guatemala City in 2010, swallowing a three-story building almost instantly.

CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – The WIPP leak isn’t the only issue causing concern for people in Carlsbad. A giant sinkhole is threatening to swallow up a big chunk of town… Right now, the sinkhole measures 670 feet long by 450 feet wide. It was created by 30 years of oil field companies pumping water into old salt mines in the area to extract brine for drilling…

Do any human activities induce sinkholes?

Sure. Sometimes in karst areas [irregular landscapes formed when soluble rocks like limestone dissolve], when you drill a well—looking for water or for mining purposes—as you’re pulling water out of the ground, you’re lowering the groundwater table. That creates almost a toilet-flushing effect. You’re lowering that groundwater level, and the soil that was sitting above just falls out. That’s one way.

We also induce sinkholes when we start putting up parking lots and buildings and changing what we call the hydrologic regime. Instead of the water naturally soaking into the ground, it’s now running off and being concentrated—being put into the ground at one point. (See “Guatemala Sinkholes Created by Humans, Not Nature.”) …

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