When the Truth Sinks In: Assessing Sinkhole Development in Georgia

EarthzineDEVELOP 2015 Summer VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Responding to Hydrologic Disasters

This is an article from the Summer 2015 VPS. For more VPS articles, click here


VPS Project Title Density measurements of sinkholes formed between 1999 and 2011 in Dougherty County, Georgia. The sinkholes were identified using a mapping algorithm developed by the team. Image Credit: Georgia Disasters and Water Resources Team

Category:åÊResponding to Hydrologic Disasters

Project Team: Georgia Disasters and Water Resources

Team Location: University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia


Matthew Cahalan

Mohamed Amin

Kimberly Berry

Wenjing Xu

Tunan Hu


Dr. Adam Milewski (Department of Geology, University of Georgia)


Located in southwest Georgia, Dougherty County has a growing populace in an agricultural region that relies heavily on groundwater resources. Partly due to escalated groundwater extraction, this area has experienced an increase in sinkhole development over the last decade. Sinkholes pose a threat to infrastructure development, groundwater pollution, and land-use operations. The NASA DEVELOP Georgia Disasters and Water Resources team partnered with the City of Albany and Dougherty County Planning and Development Services (PDS) and the Southwest Georgia Water Resources Task Force (SGWRTF) to assess past sinkhole development and identify areas susceptible to future sinkhole formation. Sinkhole mapping was completed utilizing a time-series of elevation data (1999-2011) from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument onboard Terra, as well as European Remote-Sensing (ERS-1 and 2) satellite-derived elevation data. The sinkhole inventory maps and spatial statistical techniques (i.e., geographically-weighted regression) were employed to quantify the factors most influential in sinkhole development. With those results, the susceptibility of every area within Dougherty County to future sinkhole formation was identified. The results of this applied science project will enable the PDS and SGWRTF to make informed decisions on current and future land use, safe infrastructure development, and sustainable water resource management.

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