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Sinkholes Swallow More After UK's Big Storms

Flooding in Reading, England 2014
Flooding in Reading, England in 2014. The southern portions of the country have seen an extremely wet winter that has caused several rivers and streams to overtop their banks. (Image credit: <a href="">2014 England flooding photo</a> via Shutterstock)

Sinkholes are becoming five to 10 times more common in the wake of a series of winter storms in the United Kingdom, sending cars and even parts of homes tumbling into the earth, according to The Guardian.

It's no surprise that extra-wet weather could cause sinkholes, which occur when the ground collapses over an underground void. This winter has been Britain's wettest on record, and excess groundwater can dissolve underground rocks, causing collapse. Soluble rocks such as limestone and gypsum make up a significant portion of the United Kingdom's geology.

"It is impossible to comment on where a sinkhole will appear next," British Geological Survey researcher Tony Cooper told The Guardian. "It will most likely depend on where the next heavy rain events occur."

Sinkholes are still rare in Britain, but 10 have been reported in February, according to the newspaper. One, in North Yorkshire, cracked a home in two on Feb. 17, forcing the evacuation of three houses near the 25-foot-wide (7.6 meter) chasm.

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Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers the world of human and animal behavior, as well as paleontology and other science topics. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and poked hot lava with a stick in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from East Tennessee, the global center for salamander diversity. Follow Stephanie on Google+.