GPR Helps Find Sinkholes

Round brown earth sinkhole surrounded by green grass.

Sinkholes can be a hazard to your property.

News stories about sinkholes can be terrifying. Holes opening in the earth swallowing streets, cars, lawns, and homes. Do you worry your property could be impacted? Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) can help locate underground sinkholes.

What is a sinkhole?

A sinkhole is a void, hole or depression in the ground caused by a collapse of the surface layer. Alternatively known as dolines, cenote, swallet, swallow-hole or shakehole, sinkholes can be formed by a natural geologic process or by man-made activity.

Sinkholes can vary in size from small voids to massive “house eating” holes and may form gradually over time or suddenly.

When underground water washes away soft rocks like carbonate rock, limestone or salt beds, caverns can form.

If the underground cavern space gets too large, the ground above collapses and forms a hole.

Where can sinkholes form?

According to the United States Geological Survey, about 20 percent of the U.S. land is susceptible to sinkholes.

USGS map showing sinkhole activity in the United States

The United States Geological Survey says about 20% of the country is at risk for sinkholes. Map courtesy of the USGS.

In the Northern Arkansas Ozark area, properties are at risk of sinkholes forming as a result of karst from carbonate rock. In the southern portion of the state, evaporate rocks, such as salt and gypsum, are the more likely cause of sinkholes.

Early signs of sinkholes

Though it make seem like sinkholes open up “out of nowhere,” there are some signs that may point to a sinkhole on your property. 

Signs of a potential sinkhole include:

  • Round, circular depressions in the earth.
  • Foundation settling
  • Sudden drop of well water levels
  • Tilting trees or fence posts
  • Cracks in roads or pavement
  • A circular lake or large, deep puddle forms
  • Cracks in your interior walls
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open

How can GPR help?

Ground-penetrating radar is designed to detect subsoil objects, including sinkhole voids. 

A GPR transmitter uses high-frequency, polarized radio waves. The radio waves are transmitted into the ground. 

When the radio waves encounter an object or a boundary between materials, it may be reflected, refracted or scattered back to the surface.

Using a receiving antenna, variations can then be recorded. The result is a map of what’s beneath the surface.

Ground-penetrating radar is ideal for detecting anomalies in the subsurface, such as voids that could cause sinkholes.  

For more information or to find out how GPR can work for you, contact GPR Arkansas & Geotechnical Services LLC.

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