Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards

2013 Edition
| Editors: Peter T. Bobrowsky


  • María Asunción SorianoEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4399-4_321




Sinkholes are closed depressions generated by karstification that occur naturally on the surface of the ground.


Sinkholes are usually circular or subcircular, and range in size from one to several hundred meters in diameter and up to several tens of meters in depth. The inclination of the slopes varies from vertical to gentle. Sinkholes can appear on karst rocks (mainly carbonates and evaporites), non-karst rocks and also on detrital sediments.

Collapses caused by human activity are sometimes categorized as sinkholes, as well as depressions where streams sink underground. The term sinkhole, equivalent to doline, is more common among engineers and researchers in North America (Ford and Williams, 2007) but is becoming more frequent in European literature.

The main mechanisms involved in sinkhole development are dissolution, collapse, and suffosion. Usually, more than one of these mechanisms are involved in sinkhole generation and they also condition...
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  1. Ford, D., and Williams, P., 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. Chichester: Wiley. 562 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Waltham, T., Bell, F., and Culshaw, M., 2005. Sinkholes and Subsidence. Karst and Cavernous Rocks in Engineering and Construction. Berlin: Springer. 382 pp.Google Scholar
  3. Williams, P., 2003. Dolines. In Gunn, J. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science. New York and London: Taylor & Francis, pp. 304–310.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ciencias de la Tierra, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de ZaragozaZaragozaSpain