What is the difference between a sinkhole and land subsidence?

Sinkholes are just one of many forms of ground collapse, or subsidence. Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface owing to subsurface movement of earth materials. The principal causes of land subsidence are aquifer-system compaction, drainage of organic soils, underground mining, hydrocompaction, natural compaction, sinkholes, and thawing permafrost. Land subsidence can affect areas that are thousands of square miles in size.

A sinkhole is a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. Basically, this means that when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface. Sinkholes are most common in what geologists call, “karst terrain.” These are regions where the type of rock below the land surface can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them. Soluble rocks include salt beds and domes, gypsum, and limestone and other carbonate rock.

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Image: Various Karst Features Along Peace River, Fl
January 1, 2007

Various Karst Features Along Peace River, Fl

Root filled cavities near Catacombs No. 8 showing underground flow.

Image: Various Karst Features Along Peace River, Fl
January 1, 2002

Various Karst Features Along Peace River, Fl

Crevasses Sink spans approximately 25 ft across the river bed.

Image: Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981
May 9, 1981

Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981

Photo 5 of 15: House in a sinkhole. View to east across the sinkhole.

Image: Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981
May 9, 1981

Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981

Photo 9 of 15: Community pool collapsing into sinkhole at. Pool was roughly Olympic-sized and was about half full at the time of collapse. Impressive sounds of the rebar and concrete snapping, then the rush of water. View to north across the sinkhole. (1:30 p.m)

Image: Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981
May 9, 1981

Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981

Photo 2 of 15: Cars and house in a sinkhole. Auto mechanic’s garage intact. View to south across the sinkhole.

Image: Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981
May 9, 1981

Winter Park Florida Sinkhole of 1981

This collection is a group of 15 images (digitized slides) showing the sinkhole that opened late in the evening of May 8, 1981 near the intersection of South Denning Drive and West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park, Florida, USA. The sequence of images, primarily taken on May 9th, shows the enlargement of the sinkhole which completely swallowed a house and undermined an

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