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Crater formed by exploding pingo in Arctic erupts a second time from methane emissions

By The Siberian Times reporter
29 March 2018

Man ‘caused some of the tundra blasts forming the large holes’, says leading scientist in surprising new theory.

Vasily Bogoyavlensky at the new crater formed in Mordy-Yakha River, Yamal Peninsula. Picture: Vasily Bogoyavlensky

Startling new evidence from satellite images shows a repeat blast at one water-filled hole in tundra, say experts.

A new theory also surmises that human exploitation of natural gas resources on the Yamal peninsula has led to the forming of toxic pockets which then explode, forming funnels or craters.

The phenomenon of dramatically exploding pingos in Siberia’s polar regions has come to light only in recent years. 

It is being actively examined by scientists because of deep concerns over the safety of natural gas industrial installations including pipelines, as well as residential areas, for example on Yamal peninsula. 

A series of crater lakes - some tiny, others large and deep - have been caused by what has been seen as thawing permafrost leading to methane gathering under pingos - and then exploding. 

Today’s claims about second explosions in the same craters is entirely new. 

Main crater development

The development of the famous Yamal gas crater spotted in 2014. Picture: Vasily Bogoyavlensky

Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow said: ‘In December 2017, we discovered from space that in one of the craters flooded with water a new pingo appeared - and exploded.’

These are not volcanoes but there are similarities, he said. 

‘To some extent the mechanisms of volcanism apply here - pressure accumulates, and a release occurs. 

‘Then the situation stabilises.

‘Part of the erupted rock falls to the bottom, and closes the degassing channels. 

‘Then the pressure again builds up and at a certain moment there is another release.'

Giant gas bubbles


Giant gas bubbles


Giant gas bubbles


Pingo

Bulging bumps in the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas believed to be caused by thawing permafrost releasing methane. Pictures: Yamal Region

He said: 'We proved that the forming of craters is not a one-off phenomenon, not a one-time gas eruption.

‘There can be periodically - annually, or every two or several years - additional emissions. 

‘And this of course increases the risk to human life in the Arctic.'

The pingo with the repeat explosion has not been identified yet.

Dr Bogoyavlensky has warned previously of an extreme threat to industrial infrastructure as well as towns and villages. 

But his other theory - that man may have caused some of the eruptions - is also new and intriguing. 

‘It is possible that some are technogenic in nature,’ he said.

Gas crater appeared in June 2017 right in the Mordy-Yakha River. 

The idea is that human activity is deploying technology to extract natural gas has had unexpected consequences.

For example, leaks from production facilities may have led to the forming of ‘gas pockets’ and consequent eruptions. 

He is certain from analysis that was not the case at one site: a dramatic explosion in the Mordy-Yakha River.

But he is far from certain that man had no role in other eruptions. 

The river explosion ‘is a natural phenomenon. 

‘We managed to take samples of gas, and analyse them. The gas is biogenic. 

‘There are no gas wells nearby.  So there is no doubt that the appearance of this funnel is natural. 

Video shows methane leaking from beneath an Arctic river after spectacular eruption


Video shows methane leaking from beneath an Arctic river after spectacular eruption


Video shows methane leaking from beneath an Arctic river after spectacular eruption


Solved? How scineitsts say mystery craters were formed in northern Siberia


Solved? How scineitsts say mystery craters were formed in northern Siberia


Taimyr hole


Taimyr crater in Autumn 2014


Startling changes revealed in mystery craters in northern Siberia


Solved? How scineitsts say mystery craters were formed in northern Siberia

Gas craters found in 2014 - 2015 years on Yamal and Taimyr peninsula. Pictures: Vasily Bogoyavlensky, The Siberian Times, Vladimir Epifanov

‘But we cannot say this for sure about all the craters discovered in recent years, or be sure that human activities did not contribute to their emergence.’

Some craters are in the vicinity of industrial gas exploitation facilities. 

He urged continuing research into the phenomenon, and has previously pointed to the risks associated with these new eruptions.  

‘In a number of areas, pingos - as we see both from satellite data and with our own eyes during helicopter inspections - literally prop up gas pipes,’ he said last year.

‘In some places they jack up the gas pipes….they seem to begin to slightly bend these pipes.’

‘In some places they jack up the gas pipes….they seem to begin to slightly bend these pipes.’

The problem is extensive. 

‘Based on satellite data, we have marked 7,000 bulges (pingos) - or even more,' he said.

‘It doesn't mean that every pingo carries danger - but it is still clear that we can draw certain conclusions.'

A dozen new craters have been identified in three years. 

He called for more seismic stations to monitor potential explosions close to gas pipelines or residential areas. 

Comments (8)

Воронки (дыры) на Ямале - это следствие ударно-всплескового воздействия более теплой воды, находящейся под слоем льда, на вышележащие слои льда или промерзшей почвы. В результате повышения температуры почвы над этими местами почва прогревается, расширяется, образуя возвышения и растрескивается. Почва теряет свою прочность и происходит провал. Если бы сразу, еще до сползания грязи со стенок воронки на её дно, провести осмотр дна, то можно было бы увидеть пути (каналы) подхода и причины всплеска и контакта более теплой воды со льдом и промерзшей почвой.
Виктор, Россия
15/04/2018 13:05
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Notice the blue/green color of some of the pingo photographs?

Speculating, I wonder if this is due to bacterial or plant growth using methane as the energy source? Methane seeps in the ocean are often abundant with life, with the food chain originating in methane consuming bacteria.

I wonder if this color could be used to construct a multi-spectral imaging signature of methane leakage, allowing the methane seeps to be more easily detected from space by satellites?
Leland Palmer, United States
15/04/2018 00:02
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The scale of this phenomenon is worrisome to me with important implications for Arctic carbon feedback to global warming. The Russian scientists are talking about thousands of bulging pingos. There appear to be literally millions of small lakes in large areas of Siberia and small areas of North America that are plausible remnants of methane blowouts.

Speculating, the cycle might go something like this:

The pressure from glacial ice sheets in the past brings the methane hydrate stability zone close to the surface of the earth. Bacterial communities, perhaps themselves fed by leakage from deeper thermogenic methane, produce methane hydrate. This methane hydrate persists for thousands of years in a metastable (meta-stable) state. The ice sheets withdraw, leaving this metastable methane hydrate (now outside the methane hydrate stability zone of heat and pressure) vulnerable to heat caused dissociation. Global warming due to fossil fuel use dissociates this methane hydrate, which is easily triggered to dissociate because it is unstable.

The ice sheets were widespread, and so this layer of metastable methane hydrate could also cover millions of square kilometers of Siberia, and could be many meters thick. So, there could be a trillion metric tons of carbon as methane in this layer - nobody knows. Now under hugely accelerated man made global warming due to fossil fuel use, this layer of methane hydrate could be dissociating, and might constitute a major new Arctic carbon feedback. If the millions of small lakes in this area are actually old methane blowout craters, this positive carbon feedback might be really significant.

If this dissociation process gets started, there may be no way to stop it. It might set up a positive feedback cycle that cannot be stopped by human beings.

We need to know more about this phenomenon. The world needs to know how much metastable methane hydrate is under Siberia. Russia needs to stop natural gas production, I think, or burn the natural gas in place to produce electricity and then deep inject the resulting CO2, adding in some carbon from biomass to make the whole process carbon neutral. The best thing Russia could do is stop natural gas production, I think.
Leland Palmer, United States
14/04/2018 22:44
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If you look at the topography of these areas, there are hundreds of thousands or millions of small circular lakes in these regions. So, what percentage of these small circular lakes were caused by pingo blow-outs?

Most of them, probably, I think.

As global warming proceeds, areas of relic methane hydrate, formed at high pressure under ice sheets, but now at much lower pressure, are going to have that "meta-stable" methane hydrate dissociate, I think.

This apparently happened during the Holocene Climate optimum of several thousand years ago, creating many of these small circular lakes. This is a testable hypothesis - these blowout craters should be subject to several thousand years of stream erosion.
Leland Palmer, United States
09/04/2018 21:08
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No fire, just gas pressure. This sounds like the beginning of a bad science fiction movie. In a far away obscure place this strange not-so-dramatic phenomenon is a clue to what is about to happen to the permafrost in a future cataclysmic event... I hope not. There is a lot of methane locked in the permafrost. How much exactly?
Roger Lindsley, United States
05/04/2018 22:11
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Thank you to everyone involved for gathering and carefully assessing all types of data that the team can think to obtain. The propping up of a gas-line to the point of possibly beginning to bend the pipe seems very dangerous in terms of the amount of pressure that would indicate is building up in the pingo/sub-surface. Could there be underground fires reaching rock melting temperatures as Martin surmises?

As Benedikt says, Nature Will Do As Nature Wills To Do. I would just add that we do need to be sure we account for any impacts we are having as humans and as Martin suggests, if aliens are involved, it would be good to know that...:-).
Pamela K Tetarenko, League City, USA
03/04/2018 06:33
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According to the calculated volume of the sinkhole and the amount of deposited debris around the crater, I would say that this explanation is not plausible. Such powerful explosion which would lift up and propel such a mass of soil would be of a very large magnitude and would in no circumstances leave so smooth sink hole sides which look rather cut out or melted down. Strictly vertical and so smooth sides would be impossible if there would be such massive explosion. By my understanding, there was a tremendous fire under the earth which was so hot that melted rock and soil formation but once reached near to the top accumulated gasses blew outwards very small quantity of debris which would correspond with the number of thrown out material.

If that would be wrong then there is no other explanation that somebody did it on purpose and that could be a subject of alien experts who see aliens everywhere.
Martin, Berin, Germny
01/04/2018 21:26
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mother nature just does what comes natural to her. /man/ is insignificant in the big picture....
Benedikt MORAK, Moscow
31/03/2018 09:25
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