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A 165‑Foot‑Deep Crater Burst Open In Siberia’s Arctic Tundra

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Sep 3, 2020

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Image Credit: (Vesti Yamal/YouTube)

A colossal, gaping hole, has burst open in Siberia’s Arctic tundra following a massive explosion that scattered blocks and chunks of ice and soil, hundreds of metres from the epicentre.

Following record-breaking temperatures this summer, the hole in the Yamal peninsula in northwest Russia, about 165-feet-deep, was spotted by a TV crew flying overhead for work on an unrelated project, and was subsequently investigated by a team of researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Scientists believe the phenomenon occurs because cavities saturated with methane gas form in pockets of thawing permafrost under the surface: “…in the literal sense, a void space filled with gas with high pressure,” Vasily Bogoyavlensky,a Russian scientist, told Vesti Yamal. An explosion occurs when the pressure of the gas builds up and pierces the layer of permafrost on top.

This phenomenon was first observed in 2014 in the Yamal peninsula, reportedly following a series of unusually hot summers. Since then, it has been recurring in the region. Bogoyavlensky had warned in 2015: “When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.” The present chasm is the seventeenth, but, by far the largest in terms of both depth and diameter. “What we saw today is striking in its size and grandeur,” Dr. Evgeny Chuvilin, a leading researcher at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, told The Siberian Times.


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A 2017 study had found 7,000 gas pockets under the Yamal peninsula — right where the new crater has formed. Bogoyavlensky hypothesized that these craters may be a result of climate change, and other human activities, such as drilling for gas in the Yamal peninsula, Russia’s largest natural gas field. The eruptions are also believed to be exacerbated by the rising temperatures in Siberia. “Warming and thawing of surface soil weakens the frozen ‘cap,’ resulting in the blowout that causes the craters,” Sue Natali, Arctic program director at Woodwell Climate Research Center, told Gizmodo.

Reportedly, the appearance of these craters since 2014 also spawned a series of conspiracy theories, such as meteorites, UFOs and weapons-testing, but scientists have continued to debunk these, while describing the craters as “colossal forces of nature.”

Experts are worried that the release of vast stores of methane, which is believed to be 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, could lead to a vicious cycle that causes greater warming, resulting in greater thawing of permafrost, and in turn, more frequent eruptions — worsening the global climate crisis. Researchers are also worried that as the ground becomes less stable, buildings and other concrete infrastructure could collapse, and roads could be ruptured.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an associate editor with The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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