This blog provides commentary on interesting geological events occurring around the world in the context of my own work. This work is, broadly, geological fluid dynamics. The events that I highlight here are those that resonate with my professional life and ideas, and my goal is to interpret them in the context of ideas I've developed in my research. The blog does not represent any particular research agenda. It is written on a personal basis and does not seek to represent the University of Illinois, where I am a professor of geology and physics. Enjoy Geology in Motion! I would be glad to be alerted to geologic events of interest to post here! I hope that this blog can provide current event materials that will make geology come alive.

Banner image is by Ludie Cochrane..

Susan Kieffer can be contacted at s1kieffer at gmail.com

Monday, March 3, 2014

Corvettes and sinkholes: what is a sinkhole?

1962 Black Corvette
from Roscoe-Restoration.com
A few weeks ago, a sinkhole swallowed eight valuable Corvettes at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and today the news is that the recovery of the cars has started. Here, from CNN.com, is a list of the cars:
-- a 1962 "Black Corvette"
-- a 1984 PPG pace car
-- a 2009 ZR1 "Blue Devil"
-- the 1992 white "1 Millionth Corvette"
-- a 1993 ruby red "40th Anniversary Corvette"
-- a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette
-- the 2009 white "1.5 Millionth Corvette"
-- a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder
The museum estimated millions of dollars in damage. The sinkhole was approximately 40 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep.
    What causes sinkholes? A glimpse at this fascinating map of Kentucky groundwater flow routes confirms the well-known fact that sinkholes are not uncommon there, given features with such names as "Sinking Creek", "Auburn Bluehole," and "Lost River Rise."
Simplified geology of Kentucky
from Geology.about.com.
     Bowling Green lies in the south-central western portion of Kentucky in rocks of Mississippian age (359-323 million years ago; comprise about the lower (oldest) 2/3 of the Carboniferous rocks). In Kentucky, the Carboniferous Series rocks (359-299 m.y. ago) contain massive amounts of coal, and are so abundant that they are subdivided into the Mississipian and Pennsylvanian. They are the thickest in the Appalachian Basin in the eastern portion of Kentucky, and the Illinois Basin in the west.
      The Mississipian rocks of western Kentucky are comprised mostly of limestones, shales and sandstones. The limestones contain a oil reservoirs underground and where exposed at the surface, the limestone is quarried--the Reed quarry producing more limestone than any other quarry in the U.S. The limestone also includes Mammoth Cave, part of the Mammoth Cave-Flintridge system, the longest cave system in the world. These limestones were deposited in shallow seas.
Karst features from UTexas here.
     Limestone is dominantly composed of calcium carbonate, CaCO3. This mineral is quite soluble in water containing CO2 through the reaction:

CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O → Ca(HCO3)2

There is a similar reaction for aragonite, a magnesium containing carbonate that is another common component of limestone. The dissolution of calcite and aragonite produces caves underground. The caves are often connected through fissures leading to extensive networks. As the dissolution proceeds over time, the caves approach the surface and when the surface rocks or soils can no longer support the load of trees or human structures, they collapse, producing sinkholes. Notice also the sinking streams on the illustration, and the name of the stream "Sinking Creek" mentioned above.


No comments: