A Russian TV crew discovered a massive 100-foot deep crater while flying over the Siberian Tundra region for an assignment in July this year. While scientists are still trying to figure out how the giant hole was formed, they now believe that its existence may have something to do with a buildup of methane gas as a result of climate change, CNN reported.
The huge crater is the ninth of its kind to be spotted on the Yamal and Taymyr peninsulas in Siberia since 2013. For years, researchers and laymen alike have speculated about the origin of massive craters — while some have linked their existence to underground ice volcanoes and meteorite impacts, others have offered more unconventional explanations, such as UFO landings or a secret underground storage facility run by the military.
“Right now, there is no single accepted theory on how these complex phenomena are formed,” Evgeny Chuvilin, a research scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery, told CNN. Chuvilin had earlier visited the site of the recently discovered crater.
According to Chuvilin, the craters may take years to form and are tough to spot. They generally appear in remote parts of the Arctic, where people seldom go. “Even now, craters are mostly found by accident during routine, non-scientific helicopter flights or by reindeer herders and hunters,” the researcher said.
A team of scientists, led by Chuvilin, began investigating the craters during a field trip in 2017. They are some of the only people who have ever climbed into the mammoth craters using a vast array of climbing gear, CNN reported. The scientists had to conduct their research quickly as each crater was found to turn into a lake within two years of their formation.
In a study, published in June, the researchers claimed that the craters were formed after large amounts of methane accumulated in the upper layers of the permafrost that coats the earth in these regions. The collection of methane leads to building pressure, ultimately triggering a powerful explosion, which the researchers say is a type of ice volcano.
“Cryovolcanism, as some researchers call it, is a very poorly studied and described process in the cryosphere, an explosion involving rocks, ice, water and gases that leaves behind a crater,” Chuvilin explained. “It is a potential threat to human activity in the Arctic, and we need to thoroughly study how gases, especially methane, are accumulated in the top layers of the permafrost and which conditions can cause the situation to go extreme.”
Chuvilin said that his team was currently working on a new study, which will be published in a scientific journal very soon.
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