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'That time Barnaul was undoubtedly the most cultural corner of Siberia. I named it Siberian Athens'
Pyotr Tyan-Shanskiy, 1856

Giant new 50-metre deep 'crater' opens up in Arctic tundra

By Anna Liesowska
29 August 2020

Blocks of soil and ice thrown hundreds of metres from epicentre of the funnel at the Yamal peninsula.

 The new funnel filmed from air by the team of Yamal-based TV station. Picture from July 2020 by Vesti Yamal

The recently-formed new hole or funnel is the latest to be seen in northern Siberia since the phenomenon was first registered in 2014. 

It was initially spotted by chance from the air by a Vesti Yamal TV crew en route from an unrelated assignment. 

A group of scientists then made an expedition to examine the large cylindrical crater which has a depth of up to 50 metres.

Such funnels are believed to be caused by the build up of methane gas in pockets of thawing permafrost under the surface.

Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 
Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 

Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 
Pictures of B1, the very first funnel seen in summer 2014 on the Yamal peninsula, and a map of the first four funnels in both Yamal and Taymyr peninsula. Pictures: Vasily Bogoyavlensky


Scientist Dr Evgeny Chuvilin, a leading researcher at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, said: ‘What we saw today is striking in its size and grandeur. 

'These are the colossal forces of nature that create such objects.’

The 'crater' - these holes are called hydrolaccoliths or bulgunnyakhs by scientists - is given the number 17, and is seen as the most impressive of the large holes to suddenly appear in recent years as the permafrost thaws. 

Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, of the Russian Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow, told Vesti Yamal: 'This object is unique. It carries a lot of additional scientific information, which I am not yet ready to disclose. 

'This is a subject for scientific publications. We have to analyse all this, and build three-dimensional models.’

Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 


Giant new 50-metre deep crater opens up after explosion in Arctic tundra 
A new funnel was noticed by chance by a crew of Vesti Yamal TV as they were flying from an unrelated assignment. Pictures from July 2020 by Vesti Yamal


The craters appear because ‘gas-saturated cavities are formed in the permafrost…

’In a literal sense, a void space filled with gas with high pressure. The covering layer distends, the thickness of which is 5-10 metres approximately.’

Explosions have happened in swelling pingos, or mounds in the tundra which erupts when the gas builds up under a thick cap of ice. 

Bogoyavlensky has previously claimed that human activities, like drilling for gas from the vast Yamal reserves could be a factor in the eruptions. 

He is concerned at the risk of ecological disasters if pingos build up close to a gas pipelines, production facilities or residential areas. 

‘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 previously.

Comments (35)

What are the real dangers of these "hot holes" becoming common place?
Luis D Rey, United States
29/09/2020 02:04
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What a Geologist wet dream. BOOM, probably 100's if Thousands of years of History in these striations. The Photography was sublime. Really took me there. Thank you for the experience. I hope we are able to continue to learn from this.vpeace out . Science rocks. Be good, stay safe, people
I. Morrison, USA
25/09/2020 07:13
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Can that hole catch on fire because they said the hole was filled up with gas an with high pressure to it an I hope it don’t catch on fire
Daishon capers, Decatur il
12/09/2020 00:33
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The weakness in the relic methane hydrate hypothesis is the necessity for ice sheets to provide the pressure required to stabilize the hydrates.
Could high pressure pockets of methane gas contained within permafrost layers provide the pressure necessary to stabilize these relic hydrates at unusually shallow depths, even without ice sheets?
Sorry to comment so many times, this is my last comment, I think.
Thank you, Siberian Times, for your coverage of this interesting and possibly very important natural phenomenon.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa, CA / U.S.A.
07/09/2020 23:47
0
3
The weakness in the relic methane hydrate hypothesis is the necessity for ice sheets to provide the pressure required to stabilize the hydrates.



Could high pressure pockets of methane gas contained within permafrost layers provide the pressure necessary to stabilize these relic hydrates at unusually shallow depths, even without ice sheets?



Sorry to comment so many times, this is my last comment, I think.



Thank you, Siberian Times, for your coverage of this interesting and possibly very important natural phenomenon.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa, CA / U.S.A.
07/09/2020 03:19
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Bogoyavlensky has done experiments on relic methane hydrates, confirming that small temperature changes of sediments produce huge amounts of methane gas.His paper: "Experimental modeling of methane release from interpermafrost relic gas hydrates when sediment temperature change" confirms this.

If true, that the source of gas is methane hydrate, this would imply that the Yamal Penninsula has been glaciated in the past, because ice sheets would be necessary to apply the pressure to make the methane hydrates stable. Some maps of past ice ages show ice sheets on or near the Yamal Penninsula, although not all experts agree.

I think this is a newly recognized but widespread geological process, over large areas of Siberia and smaller areas of Canada. The circular lakes in these areas are a sign that much larger methane blowouts, now merged together by permafrost erosion, occurred 5000-9000 years ago during the Holocene Climate Optimum or earlier warm periods, I think.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa,CA / U.S.A.
06/09/2020 23:39
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1
Someone missed the mark when digging a hole to China.
J.D., USA
06/09/2020 13:59
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Is there a widespread layer of relic methane hydrate under Siberia, perhaps formed during past recent ice ages of tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago, in methane hydrate stability zones under the pressure of past ice sheets?

Some Russian gas drilling scientific papers mention such a layer, needing heavy drilling mud to prevent gas explosions, when drilling through this layer.

How much methane would there be in such a layer, and if it is starting to come out under the influence of global warming, how much will come out, and how fast will it come out?

Russian scientists were saying a couple of years ago that there are many thousands of these pingo mounds, and that some of them appear to be growing, ready to explode into craters.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa, California, U.S.A.
06/09/2020 13:48
2
0
Zoom into the area, using satellite images, for example using Google Earth. These areas -hundreds of thousands of square miles of Siberia, and even some smaller areas of Canada - are just covered with circular features, circular lakes for example.

As the walls of permafrost erode, can these blowout craters enlarge, getting wider but shallower? Can they merge together, to form larger lakes?
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa, California, U.S.A.
06/09/2020 13:35
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To me, it looks like the earth has a flatulence problem and so it keeps creating anuses.
Charlie , LeRoy, KS
06/09/2020 05:50
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@Ben; I stated that the earth and other planets were formed by Hydrogen and Helium gases. Please get your facts straight!!!

@Dan; very egoistic point of you! we the human species are killing our Mother Nature NOT visa versa...However nature is a force to be reckoned with as I stated in my comment ie. nature is more powerful than humanity will ever be...
Anonymous, Switzerland
05/09/2020 21:51
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To "Court, Phoenix"
Extraction of oil does not leave a void. Oil (and deep gas) is formed over millions of years by burial heat of organic matter deposited when the sedimentary rocks were formed. These hydrocarbons migrate upwards through permeable rocks such as sandstones. When extracted, the hydrocarbons are replaced by fossil water in the rocks - the oil-water contact moves upwards. Methane hydrates are different - shallow on land and under the seabed, they are like ice - frozen gas
Dr W G Townson, United Kingdom
05/09/2020 20:46
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What are the coordinates of this new funnel?
Fabio florindo, Italy
05/09/2020 01:34
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What happens if it keep getting bigger an bigger
Daishon, Macon county il
03/09/2020 23:01
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Why are most holes not that deep?
Lol, Decatur Illinois
03/09/2020 19:43
1
1

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