Concern is growing after satellite images revealed that the soil of Siberia is plagued with gigantic gas bubbles that threaten to explode without warning. The images show that leaking methane gas — which triggers bulging bumps of earth, causing it to become soft and gelatinous — is responsible for more than 200 lakes in Russia’s Arctic regions that are bubbling “like jacuzzis,” Science Alert reports.
In July last year there were 15 mysterious underground bubbles that trembled over Russia’s Arctic. New research reveals that now more than 7,000 have emerged. The concern of the scientists lies in the possibility that they could explode at any moment.
In the summer of 2016 a group of researchers were on the remote island of Bely in Siberia when they came across a strange discovery — up to 15 underground bubbles that bounced as if it were a trampoline when they stepped on them. According to the report, when the researchers punctured the ground, methane and carbon dioxide were released, suggesting that a buildup of gases in the soil is at least partially responsible for its moon bounce-like quality.
Although it was not clear how they were formed, there were clues and that led researchers to the idea that the unusual temperature of the Arctic could have a lot to do with it. As high temperatures melt the ice sheet, underground gases escape the surface.
The problem, theoretically, is that these accumulated underground gases could explode, and it is believed that a methane concentration above 9.5 percent was the cause of the craters that appeared in Siberia. Just a few months have passed since the discovery of 15 bubbles, now there are thousands. Considering that methane is incredibly flammable, it’s also likely that some of these bubbles will dramatically explode without much of a warning, IFL science wrote. At first, it is just a bump or bubble, but over time the bubble explodes, releasing gas which is how gigantic funnels form.
The problem is that these bubbles in the soil have also been linked to the craters that have been appearing through Siberia. Alexey Titovsky, director of Yamal department for science and innovation, spoke with media outlets about the situation and he gave the following statement.
“We need to know which bumps are dangerous and which are not,” Titovsky explained. “Scientists are working on detecting and structuring signs of potential threat, like the maximum height of a bump and pressure that the earth can withstand.” He added, “work will continue all through 2017.”
Vasily Bogoyavlensky, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Siberian Times that one of the possible hypotheses is that the methane bubbles could be linked to a recent heat wave that had caused the permafrost melting of the Siberian tundra.
“These lakes have a number of features, which can help identify them from a distance,” Bogoyavlensky was quoted as saying.”The anomalous blue colour of water, the presence of craters on the bottom and gas seeps in the water, the traces of gas in the seasonal ice cover, as well as active coastal erosion and permafrost swelling near the water’s edge.”
According to scientists, they are now waiting to review several papers that may confirm the link between methane bubbles and climate change. The unique geology that composes the Siberian tundra may also play a prominent role in the phenomenon.
The researchers explained that it will be necessary to wait until the investigations are completed to draw conclusions about the hypotheses. The priority at the moment is to identify which bubbles pose a threat to the local inhabitants and to develop a map that highlights the “hot spots” of potential explosions.
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