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'Big bang' and 'pillar of fire' as latest of two new craters forms this week in the Arctic

By The Siberian Times reporter
02 July 2017

Local reindeer herder witnessed the tundra explosion that led to birth of new hole in river.

New funnel in Yerkuta is reported to be 8 meters in diameters and about 20 meters deep. Picture: Alexandr Sokolov

Scientists have located two fresh craters formed on Yamal peninsula this year, with the latest exploding on 28 June with the eruption picked up by new seismic sensors specifically designed to monitor such events, The Siberian Times can disclose. 

First pictures of the large craters - or funnels as experts call them - are shown here, and add to four other big holes found in recent years and examined by experts, plus dozens of tiny ones spotted by satellite.

The formation of both craters involved an explosion followed by fire, evidently signs of the eruption of methane gas pockets under the Yamal surface. 

People in Seyakha village heard a 'loud explosion-like bang' then saw a fire and clouds of black smoke, according to reports.

Deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute, Moscow, Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky said: 'We heard the news (about the new crater) from a friend  who saw a flame of fire and then a rising pillar of smoke.'

The head of Seyakha village, Igor Okotetto, confirmed he gad been told about the explosion. 

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters
Map shows previously known funnels, according to professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky: F1 - famous Yamal funnel some 30 kilometres from Bovanenkovo, F2 - recently detected crater 10 kilometres to the south from Bovanenkovo, F3 - crater located 90 kilometres from Antipayuta village; F4 - crater located near Nosok village, north of Krasnoyarsk region, near Taimyr Peninsula. Other pictures show new funnel that formed on 28 June 2017. Pictures: The Siberian Times, Yamal Region

Reindeer herder Mikhail Okotetto gave details of the explosion to Vesti-Yamal television of the explosion by phone, evidently citing another herder close to the event. 

On 28 June 'there was short but mighty fire' around 10.25 am, he said.

It was registered by seismic sensors as being timed around 35 minutes later.

'It happened some 35 to 40 kilometres north-west of Seyakha,' he said on local TV. 'Reindeer herder Yakov Vengo has a camp there. 

'There was a hill not far from the camp, and it exploded. 

'There were fire, smoke and huge chunks of soil 'flying out' of the epicentre. 

'The hill has vanished.'

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters
New funnel in Seyakha. Pictures: Yamal Region 

The account of an exploding hill is consistent with the scientific theory that sees the craters as mainly - but not only - formed by exploding pingo mounds. 

Helicopter reconnaissance of the site shows a crater appearing in a river, so it assumed the 'hill' was beside or abutting the river. 

The crater is some 30-35 kilometres is around 100 km of Russia's new state-of-the-art Arctic port of Sabetta.

It is in an area of crater-shaped lakes. 

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

Yamal craters
Seyakha funnel. Pictures: Yamal Region

The second new funnel is some eight metres in diameter and 20 metres deep and first images show a spectacular classic crater-shape.

Renideer herders are reported to have seen 'an explosion and flames of fire' when snow still lay on the ground this year, but the exact timing of the eruption has not been established. 

This new funnel has been examined by a group of scientists led by Dr Alexandr Sokolov, who found the funnel on 24 June during an annual expedition for long-term monitoring of terrestrial ecosystems of Yamal.

A video of the crater was released to The Siberian Times by Dr Sokolov, deputy head of the Arctic Research station of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  

VIDEO below shows two new craters, with the latest of them (second part of the video) forming on 28 June 2017. Pictures and video: Alexandr Sokolov, Yamal Region

Yamal craters

Yamal craters

A mound of land along edges of the funnel confirms the fact of the explosion, Alexandr Sokolov 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.'

It is believed the eruption was in the early part of this year. 

'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.'

This crater is around 30 km east of the Yerkut scientific station, and some 230 km north of Salekhard. 

The Scientific Centre for Arctic Research said its sensors picked up the latest explosion.

'On 28 June at 11.00.13 am local time, the seismic network on Yamal recorded a seismic event, probably associated with the release of gas,' said a statement from the institute.

'The oscillations are registered by two seismic stations located in Sabetta settlement and in the area of the Bovanenkovskoye gas field.'

The sensors have been established amid fears that the erupting funnels can damage key industrial infrastructure.

new Yamal craters

new Yamal craters
F1, the Yamal peninsula crater that was registered in summer 2017. Pictures: Vasily Bogoyavlensky 

The craters are believed to form when underground methane gas - trapped by permafrost for thousands of years - is released due to the warming climate in this Arctic region and erupts inside pingo mounds. 

Scientists say several thousand pingos, many filled with gas,  could 'explode' forming giant craters in this region. 

Pingos are dome-shaped mounds over a core of ice.

At least ten are known to have exploded in Siberia in recent years forming large craters, of which four have been closely examined by scientists. 

The largest, 35 metres deep and 40 metres in diameter, is close to the Bovanenkovskoye deposit.

One sensor can  analyse seismic processes non-stop in 200 km distance around it. 

Sabetta port is being built as part of a $27 billion project by Yamal LNG  on the Ob River estuary to export 16.5 million tons of liquefied gas from the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye field. 

The accounts of explosions creating the recent craters is consistent with testimony about a bang and 'glow in the sky' seen 100 km from a remote crater on the Taimyr peninsula in Krasnoyarsk region. This blowout was in 2013, it is believed.

Scientist Dr Vladimir Epifanov, the sole leading expert to so far visit the site, said: 'There is verbal information that residents of nearby villages - at a distance of 70-100 km - heard a sound like an explosion, and one of them watched a clear glow in the sky.'

Comments (19)

"Have scientists established how these pockets of gas ignite?
Simon, Toronto, Canada"

I wonder if the electro magnetic connection of the Earth to the Sun has something to do with their igniting? Solar activity influences the ionosphere and excites silicate based formations also. A strong surge of proton energy into the crust near a methane pocket?
Jojo, WA, USA
06/08/2021 07:04
I saw one. Flying on 9/10th April from Helsinki - Tokyo. Funnel of fire, massive. It could have been from an industrial source maybe but it was hundreds of feet high, much higher than you would WANT any fire. We would have been high flying and it was a big-assed jet of fire hundreds in not thousands of feet into the air. I should have got a photo. Looked like Mordor.
Vi, Bath
16/07/2017 04:27
It is aliens. The greys. They are like Jesus. They keeps us safe from the reptilian. Black Jesus will come again
Sheldon Mason, Nelson House, Manitoba
11/07/2017 22:16
It is aliens. The greys. They are like Jesus. They keeps us safe from the reptilian. Black Jesus will come again
Sheldon Mason, Nelson House, Manitoba
11/07/2017 22:02
Have scientists established how these pockets of gas ignite?
Simon, Toronto, Canada
09/07/2017 22:03
In our area, which also has these circular lakes, one theory has it that undersea methane deposits are forced into the bedrock by saltwater intrusion then bubbles up and is caught under blue clay. That is the way the same methane which theoretically causes the "seneca guns" could also produce features like Jones Lake, White Lake and Lake Waccamaw.
MarieandLouiskid, Hallsboro NC
09/07/2017 09:09
The Tunguskan Explosion of 1908 was not a methane explosion, not sure why anyone would even entertain the idea. The main distinguishing feature of the Tunguskan explosion was that there was no crater or any visible sign of impact. For a methane explosion to have knocked down miles and miles of trees it would have left a HUGE crater...
Joe, Victorville
09/07/2017 03:31
These events (methane or kimberlite type of explosions from the ground) may also have some connection with the famous Tunguskan Explosion of 1908, where no pieces or hard clues of an extraterrestrail 'visitor' (like an asteriod?) was found in the region for a search still continuing. If an earlier and somewhat different version indeed occured at the time in a forested area, explosive power, fires and quakes and other details may need to be investigated for a true correspondance between such events. Indeed, there were suggestions by Prof. Wolfgang Kundt of Univ. of Bonn, on the possible nature of 1908 Tunguska event, with such "from below" exlosions like kimberlites. Metane squizing is quite possible to explain the explosion in 1908 where, it was only visited in 1927, by Soviet scientists.
mehmet emin özel (professor emeritus), istanbul Turkey
07/07/2017 20:25
If you have lemons, make lemonade! Thanks to climate change, siberian people can use methane big holes for nuke shelters in next world war III!
Designed survivor, Spain
06/07/2017 18:51
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas that CO2. Its escape from permafrost like this is a wild card in the game of predicting the climate response to greenhouse gases, since we don't know for sure how much there is and how much will escape.
Mark Harder, Corvallis, OR , USA
06/07/2017 12:58
THere are many Pingos near Tuktoyaktuk and across the Canadian Arctoc tundra..I wonder when they will sink..earth once again undergoing radical change as it has five times that we know of.
Carol Stacey-Arntzen, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada
05/07/2017 12:10
an energy source .. so mine it
tom martin, usa
04/07/2017 17:03
This is my last comment - I thank the moderators for their patience.

If this is a regional layer of relic methane hydrate, left over from past glaciations, it could significantly impact the fight against global warming.

If the thickness of the methane hydrate layer averages one meter under a million square kilometers of Siberia, that totals 1000 cubic kilometers of methane hydrate, containing roughly 100 gigatons of methane. We have about 5 gigatons of methane in our atmosphere now.

Ice sheets can create massive Gas Hydrate Stability Zones under them, hundreds of meters thick.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa / California / USA
03/07/2017 11:02
Some scientists think that the hundreds of thousands of small circular lakes in Siberia could be old methane blowout craters.

The topography of the region has hundreds of thousands of small circular lakes, and also larger lakes that could consist of masses of smaller ones consolidated together. The size distribution of such lakes clusters in the range from a few meters to a few hundred meters in diameter – consistent with methane blowouts allowing for enlargement due to ice rich permafrost melting and subsiding on the edges of the craters/lakes. I have believed for a couple of years now that these lakes are likely remnants of a massive number of methane blowouts probably clustering around the Holocene Climactic Optimum 6,000 years ago. This small circular lake topography covers maybe a million square kilometers of Siberia, and appears to me to have shallow stream erosion features cut through it consistent with a few thousand years of stream erosion since crater formation.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa / California / USA
03/07/2017 10:05
Quotes from Arzhanov et al (see my first comment)

“Taking into account the permafrost thawing velocity in the crater walls and snow accumulation peculiarities, the characteristic period of complete flooding of the crater is about two years”

“In particular, small lakes ranging in size from a few meters to more than 200 meters make up about 97% of the total number of lakes in the Central Yamal Region, according to the interpretation results of ultrahigh resolution satellite images ”

“Based on the calculation results, the upper boundary of the GH stability zone could have reached the surface in the Yamal Region under climatic conditions corresponding to the glacial maximum about 90 ka, an ice shield thickness of over 250 m, and a temperature of the ice at bottom of below –1°C.”
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa / California / USA
03/07/2017 10:00

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