Environmental Geology

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 805–812 | Cite as

Identification of buried sinkholes using refraction tomography at Ft. Campbell Army Airfield, Kentucky

  • I. Camilo Higuera-DíazEmail author
  • Philip J. Carpenter
  • Michael D. Thompson
Original Article


Karst aquifers are highly susceptible to contamination, with numerous points of entry for contaminants through recharge features such as sinkholes, swallow holes and solutionally enlarged fractures. These recharge features may be filled or obscured at the surface, requiring the use of geophysical or remote sensing techniques for their identification. This study uses seismic refraction data collected at the Ft. Campbell Army Airfield (CAAF), Kentucky, USA, to test the hypothesis that refraction tomography is a useful tool for imaging bedrock depressions beneath thick overburden (greater than 20 m of unconsolidated sediment). Southeast of the main taxiway of CAAF seismic velocity tomograms imaged a bedrock low, possibly a closed depression, at a depth of 25 m that had been earlier identified through delay-time analysis of the same refraction data. Tomography suggests the bedrock low is about 250-m wide by 10-m deep at its widest point. High rates of contaminant vapor extraction over the western extension of this feature suggest a high concentration of contaminants above, and within, this filled bedrock low, the base of which may contain solutionally enlarged fractures (i.e. karst conduits) that could funnel these contaminants to the upper or lower bedrock aquifers. This study thus demonstrates the viability of seismic refraction tomography as a tool for identification of filled sinkholes and bedrock depressions in karst areas.


Geophysics Ground water Carbonate hydrology 



We would like to thank the US Army Environmental Center (AEC), for funding the initial stages of this of work, and Mr. Wayne Mandell of the AEC for facilitating this funding. We would also like to thank an anonymous reviewer for comments and suggestions that greatly improved our manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Camilo Higuera-Díaz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philip J. Carpenter
    • 1
  • Michael D. Thompson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Environmental GeosciencesNorthern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA
  2. 2.Energy Systems DivisionArgonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA

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