Sinkholes can be predicted by NASA’s radar information
Radar information can help Nasa predict sinkholes
Nasa, the American space agency, believes it can detect sinkholes before they appear
David Millward By David Millward, US Correspondent12:11AM GMT 08 Mar 2014
Sinkholes which have devoured cars, boats and even houses could be spotted before they open up thanks to new research by Nasa.
These vast crevices, which are formed without warning, are caused by the earth’s surface collapsing into subterranean caverns
The American space agency has found that an analysis of radar data it collected in 2012 had indications that a sinkhole was likely on the site of an underground salt mine at Bayou Corne, Louisiana.
Its sudden appearance on August 3 2012, led to the evacuation of 350 residents.
In this case, however, the crater kept growing, devouring trees and land, and is now estimated as covering an area of 25 acres.
The radar data gathered by Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena showed the earth’s surface had been moving sideways for at least a month before the sinkhole finally appeared.
“While horizontal surface deformations had not previously been considered a signature of sinkholes, the new study shows they can precede sinkhole formation well in advance,” said Cathleen Jones, one of the researchers.
“This kind of movement may be more common than previously thought, particularly in areas with loose soil near the surface.
“Every year, unexpected ground motions from sinkholes, landslides and levee failures cost millions of dollars and many lives,” she added.
“When there is small movement prior to a catastrophic collapse, such subtle precursory clues can be detected.”
Although the Bayou Corne sinkhole formed on a manmade site, they are a natural hazard in many parts of the world.
In the USA the states most prone to sinkholes are Florida, Missouri, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
Fatalities are rare although one man died in February last year when his home in Tampa, Florida was engulfed by a sinkhole.
Last month the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky saw a sinkhole devour eight classic cars.