Earth fissures develop from soil compaction associated with extensive pumping of groundwater. The fissures range in width from a few inches to tens of feet. Length of the fissures ranges from hundreds of feet to miles.
These fissures pose danger to cattle, wildlife, and unwary humans. The presence or possibility of a fissure-prone area also has implications for municipal planners, developers, highways, and railroads. And, because they tend to develop perpendicular to surface drainage, they can capture runoff and develop into large gullies.
Most earth fissures occur in the corridor between Tucson and Phoenix, and from Phoenix west along interstate 10.
For several years, the Arizona Geological Survey has had an Earth Fissure Viewer, an interactive map that allows you to zoom in on areas and get detailed maps. Maps, reports, and photos are also available at the Survey’s Earth Fissure Center.
AZGS has now developed an app for Google Earth which allows you to explored earth fissures in Arizona. To get the fissure viewer, go to http://azgs.az.gov/map_services.shtml and click on the third title down on the left “Earth Fissure Viewer for Google Earth.” This will let you download a KMZ data file (685Kb). You can simply download the .kmz file to your desktop and then drag it into Google Earth. Or you can double click and it should ask if you want to open in GE, or you right click the download kmz, select open and then select for GE.
Give it a try.