Phenomena

How Sinkholes Form

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Growing up in the Ozarks, I explored my fair share of caves and sinkholes. These geological features form when flowing groundwater erodes soil, sand, and even rock underground. The Ozark Plateau consists largely of limestone, which is water soluble, making it very prone to this internal erosion. As bedrock dissolves away, it is eventually unable to hold up the weight of ground above it, causing a catastrophic collapse into a sinkhole. Although my childhood sinkholes were naturally occurring, they can also form in spots where leaking pipes and infrastructure help wash underlying soil away. Unfortunately for engineers, this internal erosion can take place for years without any visible sign above ground. (Image and video credit: Practical Engineering)

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