Sinkholes represent a hazard to property and human safety in a wide variety of geologic settings across the globe. In most cases, the subsidence rate of a sinkhole represents the most significant potential impact and risk to public safety. Since 1979, the Kansas Geological Survey has studied numerous sinkholes using high-resolution seismic reflection in an attempt to better understand the mechanisms that control their formation. Most sinkholes in central Kansas form as a result of dissolution of the Permian Hutchinson salt (Figure 1). The fluid source and associated pathway responsible for leaching these bedded evaporites have been natural, anthropogenic, and a combination of both. Sinkholes have been a part of the landscape in the North American midcontinent long before modern oil, gas, and mineral exploration, but clearly the activities of man have played a significant role in both increasing the number of sinkholes and affecting their subsidence rates.
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Catastrophic sinkhole formation in Kansas: A case study