NASA Predicts Appearance of Sinkholes Using Radar Data
By Julie S | Mar 08, 2014 10:37 AM EST
A new study may have found a method to effectively predict a sinkhole's sudden appearance.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) discovered that by analyzing the data collected through radar technology in 2012, there are some emerging indicators related to the appearance of the sinkholes which wreaked havoc at an underground mine located at Bayou Corne, LA. It also offered data showing that the land area near sinkhole had been moving sideways bit by bit, almost 30 days before it appeared.
The said sinkhole appeared on August 3, 2012 and drove 350 people out of their houses to relocation sites.
The sinkhole is observed to continue expanding its area and as it grows, it keeps on eating up the surrounding land along with the trees and other creatures found on it. By 2014, the estimated area of the sinkhole is 25 acres.
"While horizontal surface deformations had not previously been considered a signature of sinkholes, the new study shows they can precede sinkhole formation well in advance," said researcher Cathleen Jones told The Telegraph.
She also explained that the sideways movement observed by the research center happens more frequently than expected in areas where the soil is loose.
The Bayou Corne sinkhole appeared in a man-made area, however, sinkholes are still considered as natural threat which affects thousands of areas across the world. In the USA, areas which are prone to sinkholes are Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Jones noted that predicting when and where a sinkhole will appear is important in mitigating the destructive effects that such phenomena may inflict.
"Every year, unexpected ground motions from sinkholes, landslides and levee failures cost millions of dollars and many lives," she said to The Telegraph.
In February 2013, a man in Tampa died after he was devoured by a sinkhole. Similarly, the National Corvette Museum lost eight classic cars when a sinkhole suddenly appeared inside the museum's premises.