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Concept: Subsidence


Florida is riddled with sinkholes due to its karst topography. Sometimes these sinkholes can cause extensive damage to infrastructure and homes. It has been suggested that agricultural practices, such as sprinkler irrigation methods used to protect crops, can increase the development of sinkholes, particularly when temperatures drop below freezing, causing groundwater levels to drop quickly during groundwater pumping. In the strawberry growing region, Dover/Plant City, Florida, the effects have caused water shortages resulting in dry- wells and ground subsidence through the development of sinkholes that can be costly to maintain and repair. In this study, we look at how frost-freeze events have affected West Central Florida over the past 25 years with detailed comparisons made between two cold-years (with severe frost-freeze events) and a warm year (no frost-freeze events). We analyzed the spatial and temporal correlation between strawberry farming freeze protection practices and the development of sinkholes/dry well complaints, and assessed the economic impact of such events from a water management perspective by evaluating the cost of repairing and drilling new wells and how these compared with using alternative crop-protection methods. We found that the spatial distribution of sinkholes was non-random during both frost-freeze events. A strong correlation between sinkhole occurrence and water extraction and minimum temperatures was found. Furthermore as temperatures fall below 41°F and water levels decrease by more than 20 ft, the number of sinkholes increase greatly (N >10). At this time alternative protection methods such as freeze-cloth are cost prohibitive in comparison to repairing dry wells. In conclusion, the findings from this study are applicable in other agricultural areas and can be used to develop comprehensive water management plans in areas where the abstraction of large quantities of water occur.

Concepts: Agriculture, Aquifer, Groundwater, Irrigation, Spring, Subsidence, Karst topography, Sinkhole


West Texas' Permian Basin, consisting of ancient marine rocks, is underlain by water-soluble rocks and multiple oil-rich formations. In the region that is densely populated with oil producing facilities, many localized geohazards, such as ground subsidence and micro-earthquakes, have gone unnoticed. Here we identify the localized geohazards in West Texas, using the satellite radar interferometry from newly launched radar satellites that provide radar images freely to public for the first time, and probe the causal mechanisms of ground deformation, encompassing oil/gas production activities and subsurface geological characteristics. Based on our observations and analyses, human activities of fluid (saltwater, CO2) injection for stimulation of hydrocarbon production, salt dissolution in abandoned oil facilities, and hydrocarbon extraction each have negative impacts on the ground surface and infrastructures, including possible induced seismicity. Proactive continuous and detailed monitoring of ground deformation from space over the currently operating and the previously operated oil/gas production facilities, as demonstrated by this research, is essential to securing the safety of humanity, preserving property, and sustaining the growth of the hydrocarbon production industry.

Concepts: Causality, Earth, Carbon, Population density, Natural gas, Subsidence, Satellite, Permian


Sinkholes are a well-known geologic hazard but their past occurrence, useful for subsidence risk prediction, is difficult to define, especially for ancient historic times. Consequently, our knowledge about Holocene carbonate landscapes is often limited. A multidisciplinary study of Trieste Karst (Italy), close to early Roman military fortifications, led to the identification of possible ancient road tracks, cut by at least one sinkhole. Electrical Resistivity Tomography through the sinkhole has suggested the presence of a cave below its bottom, possibly responsible of the sinkhole formation, while Ground Penetrating Radar has detected no tectonic disturbances underneath the tracks. Additionally, archaeological surveys led to the discovery of over 200 Roman shoe hobnails within or close to the investigated route. According to these data, the tracks are interpreted as the remains of a main Roman road, whose itinerary has been reconstructed for more than 4 km together with other elements of ancient landscape. Our results provide the first known evidence of a Roman main road swallowed by sinkholes and suggest that Holocene karst landscapes could be much different from what previously believed. In fact, sinkholes visible nowadays in the investigated region could have been flat areas filled by sediments up to the Roman time.

Concepts: Time, Cave, Subsidence, Karst topography, Ancient Rome, Geomorphology, Roman Empire, Sinkhole


Land subsidence is a concern in many coastal plains worldwide, particularly in the low-lying areas already facing sea level rise due to climate change, and much still needs to be done, with respect to both mapping land subsidence and gaining a comprehensive understanding of the relevant cause-effect relationships. Land subsidence of the northern coastal plain encompassing the Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) region in Italy, remains, to the authors' knowledge, poorly investigated. This coastland includes low-lying agricultural and urban areas and highly valuable lagoon environments, archaeological and touristic sites, and industrial zones. Here, we resolve land subsidence in the coastal plain between the Tagliamento River delta and the Isonzo River mouth over the period 1992-2010 using Envisat ASAR and ERS1/2 interferometric datasets. We identify a large variability of the land subsidence and a spatial gradient that ranges from less than 1mm/year in the high southwestern plain toward the littoral to more than 5mm/year close to the Tagliamento River delta. A comparison between the 2003-2010 and 1992-2000 sinking rates depicts quite similar behaviors of the process over the two time spans. The analysis indicates unclear correlations between ground movements and the typical driving mechanisms acting in the north Adriatic coastal plains, such as the variability of the morphological setting, the subsoil characteristics and the land use. We reason that multi-component mechanisms contribute to the observed image of the subsidence in the FVG coastland. Specifically, anthropogenic activities, e.g., groundwater exploitations, hydraulic reclamations and the development of newly built-up areas, are superposed to natural mechanisms related to the spatial variability of the subsoil characteristics, typical of transitional coastal environments.

Concepts: Coast, River, Steppe, Subsidence, Slovenia, Adriatic Sea, Trieste, Plain


Empirical models have simulated the consequences of uplift and orographic-precipitation on the evolution of orogens whereas the effects of these forcings on ridgelines and consequent topography of natural landscapes remain equivocal. Here we demonstrate the feedback of a terrestrial landscape in NW Borneo subject to uplift and precipitation gradient owing to orographic effect, and leading to less-predictable flooding and irreversible damages to life and property. Disequilibrium in a large catchment recording the lowest rainfall rates in Borneo, and adjacent drainage basins as determined through χ, a proxy for steady-state channel elevation, is shown to result in dynamic migration of water divide from the windward-side of the orogen towards the leeward-side to attain equilibrium. Loss of drainage area in the leeward-side reduces erosion rates with progressive shortening resulting in an unstable landscape with tectonic uplift, gravity faults and debris flows. (14)C dating of exhumed cut-and-fill terraces reveal a Mid-Pleistocene age, suggesting tectonic events in the trend of exhumation rates (>7 mm a(-1)) estimated by thermochronology, and confirmed by morphotectonic and sedimentological analyses. Our study suggests that divide migration leads to lowered erosion rates, channel narrowing, and sediment accretion in intermontane basins on the leeward-side ultimately resulting in enhanced flooding.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Drainage basin, Erosion, Subsidence, Natural landscape, Geomorphology, Orogeny


Salinity intrusion caused by land subsidence resulting from increasing groundwater abstraction, decreasing river sediment loads and increasing sea level because of climate change has caused widespread soil salinization in coastal ecosystems. Soil salinization may greatly alter nitrogen (N) cycling in coastal ecosystems. However, a comprehensive understanding of the effects of soil salinization on ecosystem N pools, cycling processes and fluxes is not available for coastal ecosystems. Therefore, we compiled data from 551 observations from 21 peer-reviewed papers and conducted a meta-analysis of experimental soil salinization effects on 19 variables related to N pools, cycling processes and fluxes in coastal ecosystems. Our results showed that the effects of soil salinization varied across different ecosystem types and salinity levels. Soil salinization increased plant N content (18%), soil NH4 (+) (12%) and soil total N (210%), although it decreased soil NO3 (-) (2%) and soil microbial biomass N (74%). Increasing soil salinity stimulated soil N2 O fluxes as well as hydrological NH4 (+) and NO2 (-) fluxes more than three-fold, although it decreased the hydrological dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) flux (59%). Soil salinization also increased the net N mineralization by 70%, although salinization effects were not observed on the net nitrification, denitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium in this meta-analysis. Overall, this meta-analysis improves our understanding of the responses of ecosystem N cycling to soil salinization, identifies knowledge gaps and highlights the urgent need for studies on the effects of soil salinization on coastal agro-ecosystem and microbial N immobilization. Additional increases in knowledge are critical for designing sustainable adaptation measures to the predicted intrusion of salinity intrusion so that the productivity of coastal agro-ecosystems can be maintained or improved and the N losses and pollution of the natural environment can be minimized. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Nitrogen, Ecosystem, Denitrification, Drainage, Subsidence, Soil salinity control, Soil salinity


Accurate estimation of the change in groundwater storage capacity (S) above mined longwall panels is vital for analysis of postmining void water level recovery in coal mines, and assessment of water quality impacts. At present, there is no generalized representation of the spatial distribution of changes in S around a panel. Current estimates are generally bulk averages with high uncertainty, precluding calculation of groundwater velocities in various parts of the subsurface. In this work, a recently published hydrogeological conceptual model of longwall caving is used in conjunction with observations from borehole extensometers, goaf height measurements, and pumping/drawdown records for mine pools to develop a subsurface spatial distribution of changes in S following longwall caving, with reduced uncertainty in their magnitudes. The assumption of saturation in the disturbed zone proved critical for obtaining accurate results and in reconciling widely varying published estimates of S. Results indicate that the goaf and collapsed zones each absorb over 30% of the mined volume, and about 20% is absorbed by the surface subsidence trough. The increase in S in the collapsed zone is inversely proportional to the amount of surface subsidence. The conceptual model is updated with these results to present the spatial distribution of S after caving. The results allow calculation of water velocities in various zones, and may provide greater accuracy in estimation of water level rebound and water quality processes. Most of the S participating in groundwater flows is provided by defects rather than the matrix.

Concepts: Mathematics, Water, Measurement, Groundwater, Hydrogeology, Subsidence, Coal mining, Longwall mining


Spatial variation and temporal changes in ground subsidence over the Nobi Plain, Central Japan, are assessed using GIS techniques and ground level measurements data taken over this area since the 1970s. Notwithstanding the general slowing trend observed in ground subsidence over the plains, we have detected ground rise at some locations, more likely due to the ground expansion because of recovering groundwater levels and the tilting of the Nobi land mass. The problem of non-availability of upper-air meteorological information, especially the 3-dimensional water vapor distribution, during the JERS-1 observational period (1992-1998) was solved by applying the AWC (analog weather charts) method onto the high-precision GPV-MSM (Grid Point Value of Meso-Scale Model) water-vapor data to find the latter’s matching meteorological data. From the selected JERS-1 interferometry pair and the matching GPV-MSM meteorological data, the atmospheric path delay generated by water vapor inhomogeneity was then quantitatively evaluated. A highly uniform spatial distribution of the atmospheric delay, with a maximum deviation of approximately 38 mm in its horizontal distribution was found over the Plain. This confirms the effectiveness of using GPV-MSM data for SAR differential interferometric analysis, and sheds thus some new light on the possibility of improving InSAR analysis results for land subsidence applications.

Concepts: Scientific method, Water, Geography, Precipitation, Water vapor, Subsidence, Plain, Plains


The objective of this article is to analyze the influence of clay zones on subsidence from groundwater pumping. Finite element analyses were conducted on a sand-only aquifer and a sand aquifer with two clay zones located at different distances from the well face. A model that accounts for recoverable and nonrecoverable strains was used to simulate the sand and clay. This model couples the groundwater flow with the stress-deformation response of the aquifer materials. Each aquifer was pumped from a single well for a period of 6 months, and then the groundwater level was lowered gradually to an elevation below the elevation of the clay zones and kept there for 10 years. The groundwater level was then raised gradually back to the original elevation over a period of 10 years. The results of the analyses show that the ground surface subsidence profile is strongly influenced by the presence of the clays zones. The ground surface sags where these clay zones are present resulting in a wavy ground surface profile. Subsidence continued when pumping is stopped, albeit at a much slower rate than during pumping, and when the groundwater level is below the elevation of the clay zones. Clay zones further away from the well face lag the subsidence of clay zones nearer the well face because of lower changes in hydrostatic head. Sags in ground surface subsidence profile from groundwater pumping are indicators of the presence of low hydraulic conductive geological materials.

Concepts: Hydrology, Aquifer, Groundwater, Finite element method, Hydrogeology, Geology, Subsidence, Clay


The height of complete groundwater drainage above subsided longwall panels (referred to as H) at underground mines is determined using a data base of hydraulic head measurements made with multiple devices down the depth profile at each of a number of sites worldwide. H is shown to be relatively independent of most parameters except the geometry of the mined void and the overburden thickness. An empirical equation linking H to these parameters is developed using hydraulic head data, and confirmed using an independent data base of ground movement. H is shown to be the same as the height of the zone of major ground movement above a panel. H for special cases (above longwall chain pillars, above pillar extraction panels, and underneath significant water bodies) is invariably smaller than H above center panel for ordinary cases. A new caving model, from a groundwater perspective, is proposed for continuously sheared longwall panels at ordinary locations. It removes complexity and reduces the uncertainty in estimating H. The derived equation for H applies to a variety of strata types.

Concepts: Mathematics, Water, Aquifer, Zone of alienation, Mining, Hydraulic engineering, Drainage, Subsidence