Suspicious-looking craters in the Siberian tundra are continuing to baffle scientists as four new giant craters appeared in the Yamal Peninsula. Scientists with the Russian Academy of Sciences claim that the “end of the world” peninsula has been developing more and more sinkholes and that its ground is becoming increasingly porous.
As such blowholes have recently exploded in numbers (a total of 20 and four enormous craters have been located), experts fear that they may be witnessing dangerous methane reserves being released from the permafrost.
The first such blowhole was identified by a helicopter pilot back in 2013. One of the craters is particularly striking because of its remarkable size: a 2-square-mile lake which is not visible in previous images of the same area.
Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky with the Russian Academy of Sciences underlines the urgency of the situation. As he sees it, the phenomenon should be investigated as soon as possible, so that disasters don’t occur.
“We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite.”
Satellite images reveal that one of the largest craters discovered, B2, is surrounded by over 20 liquid-filled smaller craters. What Bogoyavlensky fears is that these craters are located near the Siberian Bovanenkovo gas field and that, at this time, it can’t be excluded that the craters’ formation might be linked to gas emissions from underneath the Earth’s surface. As the Siberian permafrost has been unfreezing, underground gas reserves might have begun bursting towards the surface, Bogoyavlensky explains, and his theory is supported by several observations made by other researchers studying the Yamal lakes.
Bogoyavlensky also explains that a thorough study of the craters is difficult because of the potential volatility of the area. According to him, gas emissions could occur over longer periods of time, although scientists can’t predict when such emissions could actually happen.
The Siberian permafrost is believed to harbor 1 million times more methane hydrates than any other types of gas. And with such enormous quantities of highly ignitable gas, the explosive power might theoretically reach the equivalent of more than 10 tons of TNT.
Locals have actually reported witnessing “flashes” occurring near one of the craters, whole Yamal district residents recall feeling tremors in the vicinity of another crater.
Higher methane emissions have also been reported at the crater sites, however, other theories also exist.
Tom Wagner, NASA scientist, said in an interview with NBC News that the craters could have actually been caused by tunnels and caves collapsing within the permafrost. He even predicted that more craters would be discovered.
Image Source: Siberian Times
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