Courtesy of MCT
Sinkhole disasters have been making headlines in the U.S., but Ohio State professor Scott Bair said they are unlikely to happen in the Buckeye state.
Earlier this year a 50- to 60-foot-deep sinkhole opened up in the floor of a home in Seffner, Fla., near Tampa, swallowing a man who was unable to be recovered by emergency services, according to NBC News.
“(A sinkhole) is unlikely to happen in Ohio compared to Florida,” said Bair, an earth sciences professor with a specialty in hydrgeology, the branch of geology that deals with the occurrence, distribution and effect of ground water. “Unlike Florida, where the near-surface limestone is not highly cemented or compacted, which leads to sinkhole formation, the near-surface limestone in Ohio are many millions of years older. They are highly cemented and very compacted and have become highly cemented and very compacted over geological time.”
As many as 150 sinkholes are reported in Florida every year, according to NBC News.
Bair spoke of sinkholes and their causes for about a dozen students at a Wednesday Geology Club meeting at Mendenhall Lab. The meeting primarily focused on karst, a landscape over a carbonate bedrock like limestone that has been eroded, and caves. Bair also discussed sinkholes because some of the students were planning a cave exploration trip for the weekend, and caves are a “middle piece” between a sinkhole and a spring.
“Sinkholes within the hydrologic system represent the entry point of surface waters into the ground water flow system,” Bair said. “And springs represent some of the same water issuing back out to rivers and creeks. Caves are the middle piece where the water flows preferentially (between the sinkhole and spring) along dissolved opening caves, in the rock.”
Bair defined a sinkhole as “a barrier at the Earth’s surface where the soil and rock have collapsed downward due to the dissolution of the underlying rock … The dissolution is caused by the acidity of rainwater with the acidity of organic materials in soil and it is able to dissolve calcium from carbonate ions in limestone.”
Bair said places like the Florida Panhandle, the Georgia-Florida area, and parts of Texas are more likely to have a sinkhole disaster.
Geology Club president Shannon Hibbard, a third-year in geological sciences, said she does not worry about sinkholes in Ohio.
“I’m from Florida, so compared to there, I never worry about sinkholes out here,” she said.
When asked if there were any other natural disasters students should be aware of, Bair said for the most part Ohioans have little to worry about.
“Ohio’s geologically a pretty safe place to live,” Bair said.