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Sinkholes form in karst regions of the United States where voids exist in bedrock containing carbonate and evaporite minerals that can be dissolved by water over time. Sinkholes present hazards to humans due to subsidence and by focusing contaminated surface water runoff into groundwater, but also may play an important role as wetlands in some ecosystems. Sinkholes create instability in the foundations of buildings, roads and other infrastructure, resulting in damage and in some cases loss of life. Geologists at the USGS have created maps showing the extent of bedrock with the potential for karst erosion across the U.S.; this project aims to use these maps along with computer techniques developed for sinkhole detection using digital elevation data and a supercomputer to create the first nationwide digital dataset of sinkhole hotspots. This new map will be available for use by emergency managers, land use planners, and public works agencies.

Science Support Framework Category: Knowledge Management

Author(s): Jeanne Jones ( - Western Geographic Science Center, Daniel Doctor ( - Florence Bascom Geoscience Center, Nathan Wood ( - Western Geographic Science Center