NASA sets sights on sinkhole prediction

Sinkholes cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in Florida every year. While there are things that can be done to prevent or minimize sinkhole activity in some cases, sinkholes are by and large quite unpredictable. As we have recently discussed, the Florida Geological Survey recently began a $1 million project to study sinkhole patterns in the hopes of learning to predict sinkhole activity. It has recently been reported that NASA researchers are also working to forecast sinkholes.

NASA’s work involves collecting radar images of the earth’s surface using satellites or planes in order to create a sinkhole warning system. The scientists recently studied images of the Louisiana area where a sinkhole opened in 2012 and they found that the images showed the ground beginning to shift as early as one month before the sinkhole actually formed.

While the researchers seem optimistic about their ability to develop a system to predict sinkholes, it would be very expensive. Building and launching just one satellite can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. However, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the state of Florida spends $200 to $400 million on sinkhole damages annually. Of course, Florida homeowners whose properties are affected by sinkholes often suffer great economic damages as well.

This is because not all homeowners carry sinkhole coverage as a part of their homeowner’s insurance policies; and, unfortunately for those who do have coverage, insurers are known to frequently minimize or deny sinkhole claims.

Hopefully the focus on predicting sinkholes before they start will ultimately protect the homes and the safety of Florida residents. For the time being, homeowners are wise to ensure they have suitable sinkhole insurance, and those who need to file claims may benefit from guidance from a skilled attorney who will help fight for their rights.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “NASA research could lead to predicting sinkholes,” Mark K. Matthews, March 29, 2014