An Enormous Two-Mile Long Crack Opens Up In The Middle Of the Arizona Desert

An Enormous Two-Mile Long Crack Opens Up In The Middle Of the Arizona Desert

It looks as if a scene from Legend of the Seeker came alive, but trust me, this is not a film trick.

In 2017, photos from the Arizona Geological Survey showed a gigantic crack in the earth, stretching for longer than two miles as it spreads through the Arizona desert. [1] While Pinal County, a region off to the southwest side of Phoenix is quite prone to large cracks in the earth, this particular fissure stretched to dimensions that caused significant concerns with the AZGS.

 The crack was first in 2014 when the AZGS reviewed satellite images of the desert to check for topology changes. When a team was sent out to assess the massive fissure, they observed that it was a lot larger than it appeared in the photos and stretched for as long as 2 miles. The AZGS has been monitoring the expansions in lengths and width of the fissure ever since, and environmental events such as erosions and heavy rains have been causing the crack to expand.

We see earth fissures forming around the margins of these subsidence areas and along mountain fronts within the subsidence areas,” said Joseph Cook, a geologist at the AZGS to Live Science. [2]When I went out to map the fissure, I realized the fissure was much longer than what was apparent in the Google imagery, almost 2 miles [3 kilometers] long in total.” The team had initially mapped the fissures using GPS technology, but they went with powerful drones the second time.

This remains the largest fissure in the crack-prone area as the southern section has a dangerous depth of 25 to 30 feet and a width of 10 feet. The northern side, which appears to be the genesis of the crack is said to be older and gradually filling up with eroded sand and rock sediments from the collapsing walls. However, the southern end continues to expand into a colossal ditch.

How did the fissure form?

As much as we’d like to believe this was caused by a Darken Rahl spell, we are better off sticking to the science. 

The fissure is located between Casa Grande and Tucson in Pinal County, an agriculture-popular region where aquifers a common necessity. The fissure is the surface crack of an underlying collapse of sandstone, and it’s a lot deeper underneath. The farmers rely on the buried sandstone aquifers to water their crops and while this may seem like nature’s intelligent provision, there’s a high price to pay.

 As the water from the aquifer is desiccated, the surrounding sediment gradually compacts or collapses into the now empty pores. Decades of desiccation would finally cause whole rocks to fall in, thereby creating deep cracks both in the subsurface and the visible crust.

According to Cook, the massive crack will continue to expand as the region is heavily reliant on underground water usage.

I am sure the length of this fissure will increase over time, we are only seeing the surface crack of what collapsed,” Cook said, “The underlying fissure is longer.”

The AZGS began mapping fissures in 2007 and as of 2017, they’ve mapped a total of 26 fissures with a cumulative length of 170 miles. They expect that all the cracks will keep growing as aquifers are progressively depleted in the area.

References

  1. Gigantic Two-Mile Long Crack Spontaneously Opens in the Arizona Desert.” All That’s Interesting. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  2. Splitsville: 2-Mile-Long Crack Opens in Arizona Desert.” Live Science. Jeanna Bryner. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  3. The University of Arizona. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  4. Aquifers.” National Geographic. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
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