A decade-long silent ground subsidence hazard culminating in a metropolitan disaster in Maceió, Brazil by Magdalena Vassileva, Djamil Al-Halbouni, Mahdi Motagh, Thomas R. Walter, Torsten Dahm, Hans-Ulrich Wetzel published by nature (4/2021)
Ground subsidence caused by natural or anthropogenic processes affects major urban areas worldwide. Sinkhole formation and infrastructure fractures have intensified in the federal capital of Maceió (Alagoas, Brazil) since early 2018, forcing authorities to relocate affected residents and place buildings under demolition. In this study, we present a 16-year history (2004–2020) of surface displacement, which shows precursory deformations in 2004–2005, reaching a maximum cumulative subsidence of approximately 200 cm near the Mundaú Lagoon coast in November 2020. By integrating the displacement observations with numerical source modelling, we suggest that extensive subsidence can be primarily associated with the removal of localized, deep-seated material at the location and depth where salt is mined. We discuss the accelerating subsidence rates, influence of severe precipitation events on the aforementioned geological instability, and related hazards. This study suggests that feedback destabilization mechanisms may arise in evaporite systems due to anthropogenic activities, fostering enhanced and complex superficial ground deformation.