Collaborative research: Space-based detection of sinkhole activities in central Florida Grant

Collaborative research: Space-based detection of sinkhole activities in central Florida .


  • Over the past year two sinkhole events in central Florida attracted significant media attention. In March 2013, a sinkhole collapsed beneath a house in Seffner and swallowed a person from his bedroom. In August 2013 a sinkhole collapse destroyed a resort complex near Disney World. These dramatic events, however, are just extreme examples that stand out from a steady stream of property damage, which spikes at times of anthropogenic groundwater withdrawals. Detecting incipient sinkhole activity, particularly that which may result in sudden collapse, is a challenging task. However, recent improvements in the detection and resolution capabilities of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites enable nowadays space-base detection of small movements of the Earths surface at the millimeter/year level. In this project SAR observations acquired over central Florida by German and Italian SAR satellites will be used. Interferometric processing of the data using advanced time series analysis techniques, will provide detailed maps of surface movements and will allow detection of localized subsiding areas that may be indicative of sinkhole activity. Verification of the space-base sinkhole detection will be conducted using Ground Penetrating Radar surveys. Successful detection of pre-collapse sinkhole activities will serve as very important tool to minimize life and property hazard in central Florida and other sinkhole-prone areas worldwide.Sinkhole activity in central Florida is a major natural hazard, resulting in severe property damage and occasionally in life loss. The Inferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) will be used to monitor sinkhole activities in central Florida, in order to detect subsiding sites and resolve possible precursory subsidence prior to sinkhole collapse. The German satellite TerraSAR-X and the Italian satellite constellation Cosmo-SkyMed will be tasked to acquire high-resolution observations (sub-meter pixel resolution) over selected areas, with repeat acquisition intervals of 10-20 days. Interferometric processing of the data using InSAR time series techniques will provide high spatial resolution maps of surface movements with 1-2 mm/yr accuracy, which will enable detection of localized subsidence and better understand activity that may be precursory to sinkhole collapse. The space-based data will be used to select sites for study with sub-meter scale ground-penetrating radar surveys. The purpose of this limited scale project is to provide a proof-of-concept that InSAR observations can be used to detect precursory sinkhole activity in the challenging sub-tropical vegetation-rich environment of central Florida. Successful space-based detection of sinkhole activity will lead to further utilization of InSAR observations for sinkhole hazard mitigation in central Florida and other sinkhole-prone areas worldwide.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017

sponsor award ID

  • 1713420