The Science Of Sinkholes

The Science Of Sinkholes

Recent tragedies concerning sinkholes have been making headlines, but scientists say they've been occurring for eons. Experts join Diane to discuss the causes of sinkholes and what they can teach us about the environment.

A man in Florida died after a sinkhole opened beneath his bedroom, swallowing him as he slept. A golfer broke his shoulder when a sinkhole opened on a golf course in Illinois. Suddenly it seems sinkholes are making news everywhere. But scientists insist they're a common and naturally occurring geologic phenomenon. Sinkholes usually occur on the fragile terrain called “karst," which underlies about 20 percent of the United States. Sinkholes also can be triggered by human activity. We learn what sinkholes reveal about the interconnectedness of life above and below ground, our freshwater supplies and climate change.

Guests

Randall Orndorff

director of the Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey.

David Owen

staff writer for the "New Yorker," contributing editor of "Golf Digest" and author of a dozen books, most recently, "The Conundrum" and "Green Metropolis."

Erin Brockovich

environmental activist and former legal clerk who spearheaded the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind against Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California.

Sinkhole Map

This simplified map shows the areas with potential for sinkholes and karst in the conterminous United States (Source: U.S. Geological Survey)

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