Sinkholes are one of the major geohazards in karst terrain and pose a social, economic, and environmental risk. In Florida, sinkhole-related insurance claims between 2006 and the third quarter of 2010 amounted to $1.4 billion. Approximately 20 % of the United States is underlain by karst terrain formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks and is susceptible to a sinkhole hazard. Particularly, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania are known as sinkhole states. The scope of this study is to develop a physical model to simulate sinkholes (referred to as a sinkhole simulator), which can assess the qualitative behavior of the hydrogeological mechanism of Florida's sinkhole formations. Two sinkhole simulators were developed, with the second simulator constructed to overcoming the limitations of the first. The first generation sinkhole simulator incorporated a falling head groundwater system and the sinkhole could only be observed once the ground surface was breached. The second generation sinkhole simulator incorporated a constant head groundwater system which accurately depicts field conditions and the sinkhole was able to be observed during all stages of formation within this model. In both simulators multiple hydrogeological conditions were created and water level transducers were installed at various locations within the soil profile to monitor variations in the groundwater table during the sinkhole process, this was done to investigate the soil-groundwater behavior. Findings from this study include: 1) groundwater recharge is a critical sinkhole triggering factor, 2) the groundwater table cone of depression increases as the raveled zone or void travels up through the overburden due to sinkhole formation, 3) The cover-subsidence sinkhole failure mechanism is similar to the failure mechanism present in Terzaghi's trapdoor experiment and the cover-collapse failure mechanism consists of four district components: failure planes with erosion envelope, arch dropout failure, formation of elliptical void, and slope stability failure, and 4) a strong qualitative relationship between soil strength and type of sinkhole formed (cover-subsidence or cover-collapse) was observed.


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Graduation Date





Nam, Boo Hyun


Master of Science in Civil Engineering (M.S.C.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering

Degree Program

Civil Engineering









Release Date

May 2017

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)