Mysterious Crater in Siberia Likely Caused by Methane Blast

The methane was released by the thawing permafrost, researchers say

By on August 1st, 2014 06:50 GMT

A couple of weeks ago, the news broke that a massive hole had opened up out of the blue in Russia, in Siberia's Yamal Peninsula. Since then, researchers have been trying to made heads or tails of its origin.

The hole, a photo of which is available next to this article, measures approximately 30 meters (roughly 98.4 feet) across and appears to be several dozen feet deep. It is surrounded by a buildup of ground, and it has fairly steep walls.

Shortly after photos of this odd geological structure hit the online community, several people attempted to explain its origin. Of these folks, some pointed the finger at a meteorite crash. Others blamed missiles and even aliens.

Specialist Andrei Plekhanov with the Scientific Center of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, does not agree with either of these theories. On the contrary, this researcher and his colleagues believe that the hole was caused by a methane blast.

While studying the geological formation, the specialists recorded high concentrations of methane, i.e. 9.6%, in the air close to the hole's bottom. To put things into perspective, they explain that normal air only contains about 0.000179% methane.

Andrei Plekhanov and fellow researchers suspect that the methane blast that birthed this massive crater in Russia's Yamal Peninsula occurred due to considerable melting of the permafrost in this part of the world, Nature informs.

Specifically, the scientists suspect that, as the local permafrost thawed and eventually collapsed under its own weight, methane that had probably spent decades hidden in the underground was suddenly released, causing the mysterious hole to form.

“Gas pressure increased until it was high enough to push away the overlying layers in a powerful injection, forming the crater,” Scientific Center of Arctic Studies specialist Andrei Plekhanov explained his and his colleagues' findings in a recent interview with the press.

This theory is backed up by the fact that, according to previous studies, the permafrost in this part of Russia is now about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it used to be just two decades ago. Global warming is believed to have caused Russia's frozen soils to warm to this extent.

Provided that Andrei Plekhanov and his colleagues are right and the massive crater was indeed birthed by a methane blast caused by the warming and subsequent thawing of the local permafrost, chances are that, as global warming and climate change progress, several other such structures will form in Russia, maybe in other parts of the world as well.
Methane blast believed to have birthed massive crater in Russia's Yamal Peninsula
   Methane blast believed to have birthed massive crater in Russia's Yamal Peninsula
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