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What are sinkholes?

Sinkholes are common where the rock below the land surface is limestone, carbonate rock, salt beds, or rocks that can naturally be dissolved by ground water circulating through them. As the rock dissolves, spaces and caverns develop underground. Sinkholes are dramatic because the land usually stays intact for a while until the underground spaces just get too big. If there is not enough support for the land above the spaces then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur. These collapses can be small, as the picture below shows, or they can be huge and can occur where a house or road is on top.

Picture of a small sinkhole

The most damage from sinkholes tends to occur in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The picture below shows a sinkhole that quickly opened up in Florida, damaging a swimming pool, a road, and buildings.

Picture of a sinkhole
Sometimes humans are responsible for places where the land subsides and/or sinkholes develop. If large amounts of ground water are pumped from an area that is composed of a thick layer of fine-grained material then the land can become more compacted once the water is removed. 

Tags: Education, Sinkholes, Limestone, Chemistry