What is a sinkhole?
A sinkhole is essentially any hole in the ground created by erosion and the drainage of water. They can be just a few feet across or large enough to swallow whole buildings. Although they’re often the result of natural processes they can also be triggered by human activity.
What are the different types?
There are two basic types, those that are created slowly over time (a cover-subsidence sinkhole) and those that appear suddenly (a cover-collapse sinkhole).
What causes them?
Sinkholes mainly occur in what is known as ‘karst terrain’; areas of land where soluble bedrock (such as limestone or gypsum) can be dissolved by water. With cover-subsidence sinkholes the bedrock becomes exposed and is gradually worn down over time, with the holes often becoming ponds as the water fills them in.
With a cover-collapse sinkhole this same process occurs out of sight. Naturally occurring cracks and small voids underneath the surface are hollowed out by water erosion, with a cover of soil or sediment remaining over the top. Eventually, as the hole expands this cover can no longer support its own weight and collapses to reveal the cavern underneath.
Since the entire Florida state is underlain by carbonate rocks, sinkholes could theoretically form anywhere. However, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher. In general, areas of the state where limestone is close to surface, or areas with deeper limestone but with a conducive configuration of water table elevation, stratigraphy, and aquifer characteristics have increased sinkhole activity.
For more information about sinkholes in Florida, check this “Essential Guide to Sinkholes in Florida”.