The mystery of Siberia’s strange exploding craters may have finally been solved – DNyuz

The mystery of Siberia’s strange exploding craters may have finally been solved

Scientists are putting forward a new explanation for the giant exploding craters that seem to be randomly appearing in the Siberian permafrost.

These craters, first spotted in 2012, have been popping up in the deserted Siberian permafrost, puzzling scientists.

They can be substantial, reaching more than 160 feet in depth and 65 feet in width, and blasting chunks of debris hundreds of feet away.

Some reports have suggested the blasts can be heard 60 miles away.

Now scientists are proposing that hot natural gas seeping from underground reserves might be behind the explosive burst.

The findings could explain why the craters are only appearing in specific areas in Siberia.

According to Helge Hellevang of the University of Oslo, Norway’s professor of environmental geology, this area has vast reserves of underground natural gas.

“When climate change or atmosphere warming is weakening the other part of the permafrost, then you get these outbursts — only in Siberia,” he said.

Gas makes the hole, but it comes from deep reserves

Permafrost traps a lot of organic material. It thaws as temperatures increase, which allows the mulch to break down. This process releases methane.

So scientists had naturally proposed the methane seeping from the permafrost itself was behind the craters.

This isn’t a crazy thought. It’s notably the process that’s thought to lead to thermokarsts, lakes that appear in areas where permafrost is melting, which bubble with methane and can be lit on fire.

But that doesn’t explain why the so-called exploding craters are so localized.

Only 8 of these craters were identified to date, and they are all located in a specific region: The Western Siberian Yamal Peninsulas (Northern Russia).

Exploding lakes, by contrast, are seen in a wide variety of areas where permafrost is found, including Canada.

Hellevang and his colleagues suggest there’s another mechanism at play: hot natural gas, seeping up through some kind of geological fault, is building up under the frozen layer of soil and heating the permafrost from below.

These hot gas plumes could help to thaw permafrost at the base, making it more susceptible to collapse.

“The explosion will only occur if permafrost has weakened to the point that it can break.

Rising temperatures melt the upper layer of the permafrost at the same time. The gas is then released under extreme pressure, creating the ideal conditions for an explosive explosion.

That creates the crater, Hellevang and colleagues are suggesting.

According to the study, this area has a lot of natural gas deposits, which is in line with Hellevang’s theory.

“This area is one of the largest petroleum provinces in the world,” he said.

According to the scientist’s model, more of these craters could have been created and have since disappeared as nearby water and soil fell in to fill the gap.

“This area is very remote, and we do not know how many craters there are.

“If you look at the satellite image of the Yamal Peninsula, there are thousands of these round plate-like depressions. He said that most or all could be thermokarsts. However, they may also have been earlier craters.

The hypothesis was published on the online server EarthArXiv last month. The article has not yet been validated by a review from scientific peers.

A dangerous hypothesis for the climate crisis

While the idea has merit, more evidence will be needed to show these reserves of gas are building under the permafrost, Lauren Schurmeier, an Earth scientist at the University of Hawai’i who researches the topic, told New Scientist.

Still, if the hypothesis is found to be correct, this could spell trouble for climate models.

Natural gas is full of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Thomas Birchall, from the University Centre of Svalbard in Norway, said that the craters could act as huge chimneys, through which harmful chemicals could be released suddenly into the air.

“If this is the way large accumulations usually fail, then you are dumping methane into the atmosphere in very little time,” Birchall told New Scientist.

Hellenvang, however, exercised caution. This phenomenon may only exist in a very small area. The impact on the global scale could be minimal. While there is likely a large amount of methane stored in underground reserves, it’s not clear how much of that could get out.

“I believe that we should first understand how much of this methane leaks naturally from such systems and compare it to the amount that’s actually in permafrost as organic matter,” Hellenvang explained.

“We can then have a realistic budget of how much methane can be released due to atmospheric warming or climate changes,” Hellenvang said.

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