The SMH has a look at the recent appearance of mysterious giant craters in Siberia - Scientists may have solved the giant Siberian crater mystery - and the news isn't good.
Researchers have long contended that the epicentre of global warming is also farthest from the reach of humanity. It’s in the barren landscapes of the frozen north, where red-cheeked children wear fur, the sun barely rises in the winter and temperatures can plunge to 50 degrees below zero. Such a place is the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, translated as “the ends of the Earth”, a desolate spit of land where a group called the Nenets live.
By now, you’ve heard of the crater on the Yamal Peninsula. It’s the one that suddenly appeared, yawning nearly 60 metres in diameter, and made several rounds in the global viral media machine. The adjectives most often used to describe it: giant, mysterious, curious. Scientists were subsequently “baffled”. Locals were “mystified”. There were whispers that aliens were responsible. Nearby residents peddled theories of “bright flashes” and “celestial bodies”.
There’s now a substantiated theory about what created the crater. And the news isn’t so good.
It may be methane gas, released by the thawing of frozen ground. According to a recent Nature article, “air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane — up to 9.6 per cent — in tests conducted at the site on 16 July, says Andrei Plekhanov, an archaeologist at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia. Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179 per cent methane.”
The scientist said the methane release may be related to Yamal’s unusually hot summers in 2012 and 2013, which were warmer by an average of 5 degrees Celsius. “As temperatures rose, the researchers suggest, permafrost thawed and collapsed, releasing methane that had been trapped in the icy ground,” the report stated.