Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards

2013 Edition
| Editors: Peter T. Bobrowsky

Land Subsidence

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4399-4_208


Subsidence is the mainly vertical downward displacement of the Earth’s surface generally due to insufficient support from beneath, a superimposed load, or a combination of both. It can arise from natural causes, human activities, or, often, by human activities destabilizing natural systems. Collapse is sudden, and sometimes catastrophic, land subsidence. Settlement, or down-warping, is a process of moderate and relatively slow downward displacement of the ground.


Subsidence results from a wide variety of circumstances and processes. Some are well understood but others are not. It can be a widespread and major constraint causing substantial increased costs and delays to new development; damage to existing development, infrastructure, and land; and, sometimes, deaths and injuries. But causes of subsidence can also be localized. Whittaker and Reddish (1989) provide a good general overview of subsidence.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK