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Soil Subsidence
Subsidence is the sinking of the land due to movement of underground materials, either from human activities or from natural events. Soil subsidence can occur over large stretches of land or the corner of your back garden, causing damage to foundations and supporting infrastructure.

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Effects of Climate Change on Soil Subsidence

Climate change is shifting seasonal patterns, levels of precipitation and temperatures, which consequently affects soil’s water content. The amount of moisture within the soil directly impacts soil movement.
Weather Extremes
Sudden and frequent changes in groundwater levels destabilizes the swelling and contraction of the foundational soil.
Water Erosion
With increased frequency and quantities of rain in some areas, water flows and pools in the soil can result in the washing away and softening of foundational soil.
Extreme Drought
In extreme drought, humans and vegetation extract water from the ground water, as the pressure changes the soil becomes unstable, causing fissures, cracks and sinkholes.

Contextual Data

Soil type, precipitation records and surrounding vegetation all impact the risk of soil subsidence. The Climate Risk Engines analyse the risk of soil subsidence due to drought using information on annual precipitation records, soil types and surrounding vegetation.
Soil Moisture
Extreme drought may contribute to the shrinking of foundational soil, while extreme rainfall events may cause swelling.
Soil Type
Expansive soils such as reactive clay are sensitive to fluctuations in moisture levels and can cause sinking while sandy soils can dry out and cause destabilisation.
Surrounding Vegetation
Vegetation with high water consumption can exacerbate the “shrink-swell” effect while complex roots systems may cause instability to building foundations.

Asset Data

The type of foundation used for a property is key in determining its susceptibility to damages due to soil subsidence. While the materials used for foundations are important, the physical design of the foundation is the distinguishing factor.

The deeper the foundational pillars can reach, the more stability they can offer the property. Deeper foundations generally reach depths of more than 3 metres, can bear more weight and are better suited to weaker ground. Buildings on light strip footings or unstiffened slabs are vulnerable to soil movement as they have a lower weight bearing capacity and can be at risk of movement.

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