Mystery Of Massive Craters In Siberia Solved By Scientists


In July, a giant crater caused by a massive explosion was discovered in the Arctic circle during a summer of unprecedented heat in the area. This was the 17th crater of its kind to be found in the remote Yamal and Gyda peninsulas in the Russian Arctic since 2013, and predictably there were a load of bizarre theories about the origins of the holes, some of which centred around Kremlin missile testing and aliens. Thankfully, our old friends scientists have used science to get us some scientific answers.

A research team used a drone to create a 3D model of the most recently spotted crater, which they deduced from satellite images was caused by an explosion between 15 May and 9 June 2020.

Study author Igor Bogoyavlensky, of the Oil and Gas Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, operated the drone and had to lie on the edge of the 30m deep crater and dangle his arms over the edge almost losing the drone on three occasions.

Fortunately, he did not, and the model they created showed caverns at the bottom of the crater, which essentially confirmed their hypothesis, a methane gas build-up in an ice cavity caused a mound to form at ground level, which eventually exploded, leaving behind a crater.

Why exactly the methane is building up is yet to be conclusively proven, but it seems likely climate change could be playing a part. Basically, permafrost (permanently frozen ground, duhhh) is gradually thawing during increasingly warm summers, allowing methane trapped within the soil to seep out.

Evgeny Chuvilin, lead research scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology's Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery in Moscow said, climate change, of course, has an impact on the probability of gas blowout craters appearing in the Arctic permafrost. This is the time of the year [when the mound exploded] when there's a lot of solar energy influx, which causes the snow to melt and the upper layers of the ground to heat up, and that causes changes in their properties and behaviour.

The craters which have been discovered thus far have typically been found by accident during helicopter trips in extremely remote locations. However, they do still pose a threat to indigenous populations and scientists hope further studies will enable them to predict future blow outs.

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