Several cracks and a sinkhole were detected at the bed of Santos Morcillo Lake, Ruidera Lakes Natural Park (central Spain) in 2007. The cracks affected the tufaceous material below the lake water level. To analyse the process, a monitoring system was implemented in the area, which autonomously recorded the lake water level, barometric pressure and crack opening data. In addition, the tufa material was sampled to determine its mechanical properties by laboratory testing, and an electrical resistivity tomography survey was conducted to investigate the unexposed structure of the tufa formation. After this survey, low-resistivity sediments were identified filling sub-vertical chimney-type conduits beneath the lake bottom, which are covered by a slender “crust” of tufa accretion where the cracks were located. This paper presents a simple conceptual model, based on the experimental information obtained, that idealises the behaviour of sediments and crust with equivalent elastic springs. The model reproduces the behaviour observed during the 17 months of monitoring and explains how human action could have altered the natural tufa growth dynamics, ultimately causing the sinkhole to develop. However, the most relevant contribution of the analysis is to acknowledge that the role of the chimneys naturally triggering cracks is not a structural pathology but is instead one of the development stages of the lake bed crust, which could also be the case in other similar systems. Thus, the characterization procedure and the proposed model can be used to both improve the knowledge of tufaceous systems and evaluate their feasible evolution.
Journal of Iberian Geology – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 20, 2018
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