The Giant Louisiana Sinkhole in Assumption Parish
I started following the story of the Louisiana sinkhole many months ago, and this bizarre hole has held my interest ever since I found out about it. Being the climate change reporter for the San Francisco Examiner online, one of the subjects that I study alot about is methane gas. So when I started learning about the sinkhole and the fact that it was emitting methane bubbles, the story was one that I needed to follow up on.
What I have learned, and watched, is disturbing.
Methane bubbles from the Louisiana sinkhole
Although the Louisiana sinkhole has actually been emitting methane for awhile now (actually for several months and probably longer), the size of the sinkhole has increased dramatically just within the last few months.
Frequent official flyovers posted on YouTube show the ever expanding width of the sinkhole, and so far no one seems to know EXACTLY what has caused the sinkhole. Below is the latest official map of the diameter of the sinkhole with measurements over the last couple months. Deborah Dupre, also a reporter for the Examiner, has been following the sinkhole story since it started.
The latest news shows the sinkhole not only expanding, but also possibly being the cause of a recent explosion at Camp Minden nearby, according to physicists. In an email to Dupre, a physicist had this to say about the sinkhole, "If there is enough methane in the air, just about anything could ignite explosions," physicist Steve Knudsen said.
Measurements taken early in August showed the sinkhole measured 324 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep, but it one area it was 422 feet deep. Today the sinkhole has increased in size to over 550 feet in diameter.
Evacuations ordered for sinkhole residents
Although evacuation orders have been in effect for quite some time for local residents by the sinkhole, there are many that have not been able to leave their homes. As the sinkhole grows, there is fear that the sinkhole gases could cause a huge explosion and cause a great loss of life.
Also concerning is a possible connection between the sinkhole and the BP Macondo well blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico. Many theorize that the Macondo well was never really fully sealed, that the seafloor was actually fractured when the well blew up, and that oil and methane are finding paths to the surface, possibly even through the sinkhole.
Fears of growing methane gas in the underground water aquifer is concerning residents. Methane is a powerful gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Methane gas is also one of climate changes most dreaded scenarios, as a huge methane release is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years ago.
"An as-yet undetermined amount of natural gas is trapped in the aquifer underneath the Bayou Corne community, state and parish officials have said."
Seismic activity around and by the Louisiana sinkhole
In addition to the sinkhole, smells of gases and possible fear of explosions, there has been a strange uptick of seismic activity in the area for several months, often coming in waves.
Dr. Stephen Horton with the USGS told reporter Deborah Dupré in mid-August that for two months, there had been "thousands of quakes in the area."
The latest theories on the cause of the Assumption Parish Louisiana sinkhole can be found at the PDF file here: Scientific Workgroup theories of cause
8/13/12 site flyover of the sinkhole
Latest sinkhole flyover on Oct. 15, 2012
Poll on the Louisiana sinkhole
Had you heard about the sinkhole before this hub ?
Methane gas explosion fears rise
Since the sinkholes emergence on August 3 of this year (2012), the sinkhole has grown dramatically by evidenced flyovers (see YouTube flyover videos on Aug. and the latest fly-over on Oct. 15)
There have been mounting reports and fear of the methane gas being emitted from the sinkhole and from areas as far away as 80 miles (Lake Peigneur) Officials admit crude oil and methane are coming from massive underground formations below the sinkhole.
"Methane bubbles have been emerging in the sinkhole vicinity for months."
The situation is made all the more worrisome because the hole is believed to be close to a well containing 1.5 million barrels of liquid butane, a highly volatile liquid that turns into a highly flammable vapor upon release.
"A breach of that well, Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack has said, could be catastrophic."