Master's Theses

Date of Award

Fall 1985

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




John R. Ratzlaff


Recently renewed development of sinkholes and earth fissures in four southwest Kansas counties has promoted interest about the rapidness at which they form, the potential impact on landowners, and the effects on present and future groundwater use. Each is a major concern for this agricultural area. Geologic, seismic, hydrologic, and subsidence data show that the sinkholes and earth fissures result from the association of subsurface faulting and solution of evaporite beds. Fault planes have provided avenues along which groundwater can circulate and has allowed access to upper Permian soluble beds in this area. Solution of salt, gypsum, and anhydrite beds has created voids that slowly propagate towards the surface (solution subsidence) or move rapidly to the surface (solution collapse) creating sinkholes and earth fissures. Due to the association of sinkholes and earth fissures with areas of extensive groundwater declines in Arizona, Texas, and California, it is suspected that sinkholes and fissures in the study area may have a similar association. Also, subsidence may be occurring on a regional scale as a result of this decline. Sink holes and fissures are expected to continue to develop as additional solution of subsurface beds occur, with groundwater declines having a greater influence on their formation as water levels drop. Accurate vertical surveying, periodic re-leveling, installation of compaction-recorders, and drilling of test holes, are recommended to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the formation of the sinkholes and earth fissures. Implementation of these practices would not only allow continued study of the sinkholes and fissures already present, but may provide important information on how to curb the advancement or formation of these features.


Copyright 1985 Lynn D. Volger


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