UCF: Creating way to help predict sinkholes
ORLANDO, Fla. – July 10, 2014 – Sinkholes are a dangerous problem in Florida – not only do they cause damage to property, they can also injure or kill people. If only there was some way to figure out when and where a sinkhole might occur, it may help prevent some of the deadly consequences.
University of Central Florida (UCF) researchers are working on a way that could help predict sinkholes and the areas where they form. How? The UCF group recently developed a "mini-sinkhole simulator" to find out what causes a sinkhole.
According to UCF engineering professor Manoj Chopra, researchers are seeking patterns in water levels: They hope to figure out if the patterns in underground water levels will help identify potential sinkholes before they form.
Sinkholes occur when soil collapses into large holes caused by the flow of water that eats away at the state's underground rocky layer of limestone. The water gradually weakens the limestone's ability to support the earth above it. As the rocky layer wears down, the soil above starts sinking down through the small holes and cracks, causing unseen cavities underground. As those cavities get bigger, the limestone can't continue to support the heavy earth above it, and everything on the surface then falls into the sinkhole.
The mini-sinkhole simulator experiment was designed by Mohamed Alrowaimi, a Ph.D. candidate student. UCF engineering professor Andrew Yun also is working on the project, helping with the sensors and data interpretation. The project is Alrowaimi's doctoral dissertation.
According to Chopra, coming up with a sinkhole prediction model could be a valuable tool in planning communities, roadways and other structures to be built in Florida. Eventually, it could also be a helpful resource for homeowners, too.
Source: UCF Today
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