Inside the Science of Sinkholes

Another day, another sinkhole in Florida.

— -- Another day, another sinkhole. The latest one to take place is in Florida.

A family had minutes to escape before what appeared to be a sinkhole swallowed up a car and driveway.

Jerry Black, a senior geologist at Geo Hazards, a Florida based consulting group, said sink holes are caused by a "little bit of both mother nature and human development."

Here are four answers to some of the most common questions about the science of sinkholes:

How Does A Sinkhole Form?

As the groundwater dissolves the carbonate bedrock, gaps form beneath the surface. Sinkholes happen when the spaces below the ground get too wide, causing the land to collapse into the earth -- eating roads, homes, cars and anything else in its way.

Sinkholes can be anywhere from one to 100 feet deep, according to the USGS.

Why are there so many sinkholes in Florida?

Florida sits on several thousand feet of limestone, which coupled with its extensive groundwater system and the strain put on it from a growing population, creates the perfect storm to cause numerous sinkholes every year.

Other states that are also especially susceptible to sinkholes are Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, Black said.

How Can I Tell If A Sinkhole Is Developing?

Most sinkholes are isolated events and form gradually over time. Black said the "sensationalistic" sinkholes that have swallowed homes and even killed one Florida resident, are incredibly rare.

"You can see subtle depressions at the surface," he said. "For the ones that happen overnight there is not that much time or any kind of warning before they happen."

Can humans cause sinkholes?

Yes! Anytime when natural water drainage patterns are changed, it's feasible sinkholes can develop.

"Here in Florida, our groundwater is our major source of water for all municipalities," Black said. "There has been times that over pumping and drawing down the water table has created sinkholes."