Two Giant Sinkholes In Texas Are Expanding, May Collapse Into Each Other, Study Warns

Posted: Jun 20 2016, 10:56am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 21 2016, 9:24pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Two Giant Sinkholes in Texas are Expanding, May Collapse into Each Other, Study Warns
Credit: Google Maps

New study says giant Texas sinkholes are growing at an alarming rate and can cause a catastropic disaster in the future.

Recently a massive sinkhole opened up in Canada capital’s core and caused the shut down of stores and shopping malls along the street. The incident has prompted U.S. scientists to issue a grave warning for Texas community which itself harbors two giant sinkholes.

Geologists at Southern Methodist University say that two growing sinkholes in west Texas are at risk of collapsing into each other to form one massive sinkhole.

The two sinkholes are currently 2 kilometers apart and located between the cities of Wink and Kermit, area where more than 7000 people reside. Satellite imagery shows that these sinkholes are expanding at an alarming rate. The area around the existing holes is also not solid enough and could lead to a catastrophe disaster in the future. 

“This area is heavily populated with oil and gas production equipment and installations, hazardous liquid pipelines, as well as two communities. The intrusion of freshwater to underground can dissolve the interbedded salt layers and accelerate the sinkhole collapse. A collapse could be catastrophic,” said Jin-Woo Kim, coauthor of the study.

“Following our study, we our collecting more high resolution satellite data over the sinkholes and the neighboring regions to monitor further development and collapse.”

The sinkholes were originally created as a result of excessive gas and oil extractions in the area which peaked during 1926 to 1964. The first hole, dubbed Wink Sink No. 1, emerged in 1980 and is currently comparable to the size of a football field. Wink Sink No. 2, the larger of the two holes, opened up two decades later in 2002. But it is the smallest hole that is bothering geologists the most.  The Wink Sink No. 1 appears to be more unstable and collapsing at a brisk rate, up to 1.2 inches a year.

The satellite radar data which was used in the research was collected over five months last year. The sophisticated technology called interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR is so sharp and sensitive that it can detect minor changes in surface from 435 miles above the Earth and help create computer models that can predict deterioration with remarkable accuracy. These finding can serve as a baseline for further investigations and also for restoration work. 

“Sinkhole formation has previously been unpredictable, but satellite remote sensing provides a great means to detect the expansion of the current sinkholes and possible development of new sinkholes,” said Kim. “Monitoring the sinkholes and modeling the rate of change can help predict potential sinkhole development.” 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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