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Texas Sinkholes – Is Texas Disappearing into Netherworld?

by Sankalan Baidya
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Texas Sinkholes have become an increasing concern for the residents of the US state. It is not religion or it is not politics that is dragging the state into an abyss. It is Mother Nature herself who has decided to drag the state into the Netherworld.

Two towns in West Texas – the Wink and the Kermit have witnessed the appearance of giant sinkholes. These are definitely something that the residents of these towns should worry about.

What led to Texas Sinkholes?

It is oil. Not really oil but yes, human activity of extracting oil is the major reason for their formation. They are called Wink Sink No. 1 and Wink Sink No. 2. Yes, that is what the sinkholes have been named as.

Some 60 years ago, the oil production in the area stopped. Once the oil was extracted, underground cavities were formed. Now, the surface is collapsing. Sinkhole formation is common in oil-extraction business. What is uncommon here is that Wink Sink No. 1 and Wink Sink No. 2 started of unusually large.

Texas sinkholes

Satellite imagery showing proximity of Wink Sink No. 1 to production installation.

On top of that, these two Texas sinkholes are growing at a much faster rate than expected.

Precisely how big are these Texas Sinkholes?

Wink Sink No. 1 is currently standing at 361 feet across. That’s, according typical Texas measurement, equal to 1.6 football fields. This sinkhole opened up in 1980.

Wink Sink No. 2, the second one of the Texas sinkholes is much bigger. This second one opened up in 2002. As of today, it has a diameter of 900 feet. Texas measurement? That’ 3 football fields.

Threat assessment for Texas Sinkholes

Sinkholes don’t make good tourist attractions. They are dangerous. The problem is that the danger cannot be easily assessed from ground. The reason is simple. The sinkholes grow at a rate that is not easily visible from the ground. The only way to capture the changes properly is an aerial inspection.

A new study was published in journal Remote Sensing by Southern Methodist University’s geologists. According to the study, these geologists were really concerned about the sinkholes. So, they ended up commissioning a satellite to keep a tab on the sinkholes.

Texas sinkholes

Satellite imagery showing increasing sinkhole activity.

The satellite took overhead pictures of the two sinkholes using InSAR or Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar. The InSAR detected those changes which are literally not possible to check from ground level.

InSAR gave some news and it was not really what was expected. It was even worse than expected. It turned out that groundwater in the area actually increased after the oil was removed. This groundwater in turn rushed into massive underground deposits of salt.

This has posed even greater threat. As the water is dissolving the salt, the ground near the sinkholes can no longer hold up and is sinking. The rate of this sinking of ground has actually increased compared to previous readings.

How fast are Texas Sinkholes growing?

According to InSAR study, Wink Sink No. 1 has a sink rate of 4 centimeters or 1.6 inches per year. Wink Sink No. 2, which is only 0.7 miles away from No. 1 has sink rate of 13 centimeters per year. This is about 5 inches of annual drop!

Texas sinkholes

Proximity of sinkhole Wink Sink No. 2 to sinkhole Wink Sink No. 1

The reason why this is a growing concern is that the Texas sinkholes are close to urban settings. In particular, they are close to gas production installation site. The site is plagued with liquid pipelines and other instrument. This can lead to catastrophe for the two communities that are living nearby. Even worse, satellite images show possibilities of other sinkholes opening up!

These two sinkholes will eventually eat up more of Wink and Kermit but the satellite imagery can work as advanced warning for the locals.

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2 comments

Nona October 31, 2019 - 11:13 am

You say, it s oil extraction. That is probably one of the readons but what about rhe huge sinkholes in Honduras, in the middle of cities, where there is no oil well?

What are other reasons?

Reply
Sankalan Baidya October 31, 2019 - 12:17 pm

We really don’t know!

Reply

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