Earlier this summer new craters were formed on the tundra of the Yamal peninsula in Siberia due to methane gas explosions. When permafrost melts it releases methane – a greenhouse gas – that has been trapped under the surface for many years.
Aleksandr Sokolov is the station manager of an INTERACT Arctic Research Station. He was on site and studied one of the new craters.
“A mound of land along edges of the funnel confirms the fact of the explosion”, he said. “This plot of land was absolutely flat just two years ago. A year ago, in 2016, it bulged and we could see that soil has cracked there.”
“The Nenets native people told us they saw fire in winter 2017, but it might mean January to March or April. In other words, it exploded when snow was still lying.”
Above: The Yamal crater. Credit: Dr Aleksandr Sokolov, INTERACT.
The impacts of global warming – melting permafrost
Scientists agree that Siberia’s permafrost is in danger of melting as the globe warms. Permafrost is soil that stays frozen all year long. But as the Arctic warms, more and more soil under the surface of the earth is melting. As the soil thaws, the organic material locked inside begins to break down, releasing gases such as methane.
What is a pingo?
The release of gas can be slow, but sometimes this warming can cause sudden explosive changes in the landscape, creating craters. This can happen when pingos suddenly blow up. Pingos are soil-covered permafrost hills. If they melt rapidly, they can release a fiery burst of methane and create craters.
To find out more watch this short clip about pingos in Canada.
WWW would like to thank our partner INTERACT for permission to publish this post.
Full articles about the new craters can be read here: