UH geologists

UH geologists

A large section of northwestern Harris County – particularly the Jersey Village area – is sinking rapidly, according to a University of Houston (UH) geologist who has analyzed GPS data measuring ground elevation in the Houston area. Some points in Jersey Village are subsiding by up to 5.5 centimeters (about 2 inches) a year, said Shuhab Khan, an associate professor of geology at UH. Khan, along with UH geology professor Kevin Burke and former Ph.D. student and UH alumnus Richard Engelkemeir, studied a decade’s worth of detailed GPS data measuring the elevation of various points throughout the Houston area. They recently published their findings in the journal Tectonophysics, an international medium for the publication of research in the fields of geotectonics, geology and physics of the Earth’s crust and interior.

“A sprawling area of northwestern Harris County is gradually subsiding, but the points in Jersey Village are sinking fastest,” Khan said. “The area is roughly 30 kilometers by 30 kilometers, which is the equivalent of about 18 miles by 18 miles.”

The raw data was obtained from the Houston-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District. Khan’s study processed and analyzed GPS data from more than two dozen measurement points throughout the county, covering 1995 to 2005. Extrapolating data from six measurement stations, Khan roughly marks the boundaries of the vast subsiding area. At three of those measurement spots, centered around Jersey Village, the sinking was particularly fast.

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