Some Earth Science For You: Sinkholes in 2020

While a virus has been spreading around the world, Mother Nature has continued to create devastating natural disasters every day. There’s one natural phenomenon in particular that rarely makes headlines, but frequently claims lives, homes, and people’s happiness. I am talking about sinkholes, gaping holes in the Earth that strike when you least expect it, and there have been quite a few in 2020. 

Sinkholes commonly occur in areas where the rock below the surface is made of limestone and other rocks that can be dissolved by the groundwater through erosion and natural processes. As slightly acidic groundwater makes it way through the rock, cavities are formed. When the land surface and anything on it collapses, they are swallowed into this void. Land affected by droughts, excessive rainfall, and/or human activities, such as drilling and over-pumping of groundwater, are susceptible to the formation of sinkholes as well. 

Due to the fact that the land underneath is primarily made of porous limestone, Florida is a major victim of sinkholes, and this year was no exception. On January 29, 2020, a massive hole appeared in a mobile home park, threatening to swallow a 74-year-old man’s home. On June 7, 2020, a sinkhole took down traffic light poles in Central Florida. Fortunately, in both cases, no one was killed or injured, but the same cannot be said about the situations in China.

Florida mobile home park– January 29, 2020

6 killed. 16 injured. January 14, 2020. Xining, China. Tragedy struck as passengers were boarding a stationary bus. In an instant, only the bus’ back bumper was to be seen and all of the innocent people on the surface had fallen in. Those who tried to prevent others from falling were also taken as the hole expanded and the road caved in even more. Amidst the chaos, an explosion occurred in the hole due to the electricity cable and things only got worse. Officials stated that the hole was 10 meters in diameter and 860 square meters in area. 

Many believe that the frequent sinkholes that occur in China are a product of rapid urban development rather than natural causes. Regardless of the advancements we have made in society, it is always important to consider our actions’ consequences on the environment even during this pandemic. We only get one Earth. 

Bus swallowed by sinkhole in China– January 14, 2020

Images: https://www.fox4now.com/news/world/six-confirmed-dead-15-injured-after-sinkhole-swallows-bus-in-china; https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2020/01/29/giant-sinkhole-opens-mobile-home-park-threatens-swallow-home/4609663002/

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