Scientists have uncovered four large, mysterious craters in Russia's Yamal peninsula, the very same region where three of the inexplicable holes appeared last year, raising fears that climate change may be to blame for the unusual formations.
The craters, which are thought to be caused by methane gas eruptions brought on by melting permafrost, were discovered using satellite photos. One of the mysterious holes was spotted just six miles from a major gas production plant, surrounded by as many as 20 smaller craters, prompting experts to worry that the Yamal peninsula may be facing an imminent natural disaster.
Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, the deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences and based in Moscow, cited safety concerns as justification for an immediate investigation into the phenomenon.
"We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area," he asserted. "Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula. We have exact locations for only four of them. The other three were spotted by reindeer herders."
Mystery solved? #Methane explosion created huge crater in #Arctic Yamal Penninsula; http://t.co/wg7haRdXre (pic: AP) pic.twitter.com/5Q0L28ilpUThe professor also noted that other craters, yet undiscovered, may lie in wait in the Yamal region. Experts fear that there may be as many as 30 more craters that have so far gone undocumented.
— FrontEarthScience (@FrontEarthSci) January 26, 2015
"I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them. I would compare this with mushrooms. When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around."
A member of an expedition group on the edge of a newly formed #crater on the #Yamal Peninsula,northern #Siberia 9/11 pic.twitter.com/cJ5nXJu5qX — Hans Solo (@thandojo) November 23, 2014Residents living near one of the craters, which is located in Antipayuta on the Yamal Peninsula, have reported seismic events and a flash of light, lending credence to the theory that the holes are the result of an erupting shallow pocket of methane gas. There is also concern among scientists that lakes in the region, some of which are thought to have been formed from craters, are showing signs of methane gas release, possibly indicating similar eruptions to come.
"This haze that you see on the surface shows gas seeps from the bottom of the lake to the surface," Professor Bogoyavlensky noted. "We call this process 'degassing'."
Dozens of new craters suspected in Arctic Russia along with the famous Yamal hole. http://t.co/JOfB26Qbh1 pic.twitter.com/haxPuNy0NIExperts have calculated that the total explosive force of the Yamal peninsula's craters is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, further raising fears that a cataclysmic event could be slowly developing in Siberia.
— Siberian Times (@siberian_times) February 23, 2015
[Image: Vasily Bogoyavlensky/ the Siberian Times via the Daily Mail]