The discovery of yet another mysterious crater in the Arctic baffles scientists
Earlier this summer, a Russian TV crew flying over the Siberian tundra made an alarming discovery: an enormous crater, 100 feet deep and 66 feet wide.
According to scientists, this crater is the ninth one spotted since 2013. However, they are unsure what caused the formation. After the discovery of the first crater, rumours of a UFO landing causing the crater flew across the globe.
Scientists now believe that the mysterious hole may be caused by a buildup of explosive methane gas, which could be a detrimental result of global warming in this region. However, this is still a theory that has yet to be proved by research.
“Right now, there is no single accepted theory on how these complex phenomena are formed,” Evgeny Chuvilin, lead research scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery, told CNN.
“It is possible they have been forming for years, but it is hard to estimate the numbers. Since craters usually appear in uninhabited and largely pristine areas of the Arctic, there is often no one to see and report them,” Chuvilin said.
“Even now, craters are mostly found by accident during routine, non-scientific helicopter flights or by reindeer herders and hunters.”
Chuvilin and his team are one of the few researchers who have investigated these craters on site. The team made their way down the crater using special gear designed for climbing.
One of the biggest challenges they face is the limited window of time to investigate. These craters are known to turn into lakes approximately two years post their formation, and oftentimes, the craters are discovered months after they have been formed as they are found in areas scarce of human life.
According to Marina Leibman, a Russian permafrost expert at the Earth Cryosphere Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, climate change has a role to play in the formation of these craters, specifically during the hot summers witnessed by this region between 2012 and 2016.
The release of methane from permafrost is believed to be caused by rising air and ground temperature over the past decades. The formation of all gas emission craters was preceded by abnormally warm summers.
According to Leibman, methane gas assembles in the cryopeg — a layer of unfrozen ground that never freezes because of its salt content below a table of ground ice — and behaves as a trap. The gas then escapes, deforming the ice and earth, to form a mound. Heat during a warm summer causes the mounds to blow out and create the craters.