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Erosion by Groundwater

Groundwater erodes rock, especially carbonate rock, to create caves.

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Credit: USGS
Source: http://gallery.usgs.gov/photos/03_05_2013_kpf6JVu22C_03_05_2013_0
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Sometimes the ground open ups and swallows cars, buildings or even people. This usually happens at features called sinkholes.

Why It Matters

  • Limestone, gypsum and salt make up karst terrain.
  • Florida is nearly all limestone so it has many sinkholes, but nearly every state has some.
  • Sinkholes occur in other types of rock. They can even be caused by human activities.
  • People have died and property has been lost into sinkholes.

Explore More

With the links below, learn more about sinkholes. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is a sinkhole?
  2. What causes karst terrain?
  3. Why do scientists make geologic maps of a region to protect against sinkholes?
  4. What is a cover collapse sinkhole and why is it dangerous?
  5. What are the warning signs that a sinkhole might open up?
  6. How does a sinkhole affect the groundwater of the region?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: USGS; Source: http://gallery.usgs.gov/photos/03_05_2013_kpf6JVu22C_03_05_2013_0; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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