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The Sinkhole Phenomenon

By James Donahue

The sudden appearance of large sinkholes in the earth has been in the news of late. They appear to be occurring so often, with such size and in unexpected places that they are starting to become headline news.

Thus the questions: are sinkholes a new environmental phenomenon and if so, why are they happening and are they something to be alarmed about?

Of course the most infamous sinkhole to date has been the one that opened up in Tampa, Florida, under the home of Jeff Bush, swallowing Bush while sleeping in his bed in one big crashing gulp. Efforts to rescue Bush were unsuccessful. His body remains buried deep under the earth under the ruins of what had been his Tampa home.

Another sensational sinkhole was the 60-foot hole that swallowed a three-story building in the heart of Guatemala City, Guatemala, in 2010. The hole opened up during Hurricane Agatha when the area was receiving over four inches of rain in 12 hours.

In May 2013 a sinkhole developed under the home of Robin and Scott Spivey, causing the house to drop 10 feet in Lakeport, California. Within days the houses on both sides of the Spivey property collapsed as the ground continued to open up throughout the subdivision. The problem grew until eight homes were abandoned and 10 more were under notice of imminent evacuations.

Then there is the strange monster sinkhole in southern Louisiana that began in a rural bog, but kept growing in size until it has now created a 15-acre wide hole and forced hundreds of nearby residents out of their homes as it continues to expand.

Sinkholes are not a new phenomenon, but what is bothersome about these events is that there appear to be a lot of them happening all over the world and within the last few years. And that is making some geophysicists wonder if something new is happening under the earth to cause so much ground to collapse.

The common explanation for sinkholes has been that large underground caverns are caused by leaking pipes, sewer lines, or moving ground water, which eventually causes the supporting bedrock to erode and collapse. Limestone Is known to be a common problem when there is moving water involved. These areas are identified as a karst topography.

It is known that sinkholes are relatively common in Florida, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. They occur frequently in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Slovenia, China, and several other parts of the world.

In Sarisarinama, Venezuela, it is reported that sinkholes have appeared in recent years that are over 1,000 feet in width.

Linda Moulton Howe, in her controversial website "Earthfiles," suggests that something is going on at the core of the Earth that is causing what one unnamed geophysicist said was causing an increase in "soil liquefaction."

Howe quotes this unidentified scientists as saying: "Since 2011, many geologists have noticed almost a 1,000 percent increase in soil liquefaction."

Wikipedia described soil liquefaction as a phenomenon whereby "a saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to applied stress, usually earthquake shaking or other sudden change I stress condition, causing it to behave like a liquid."

Howe said the researchers she talked to "believe something is going on in the inner core of the Earth. They don’t know it it’s a magnetic pole change, restructuring of minerals within the soil down to the mantle and core. They really have no idea what’s going on."

For now, our only advice is for everybody to watch where they walk and to be sensitive to any strange noises and shaking of the ground. Some of those sinkholes occur very quickly and they can get very deep.