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Warnings of new Arctic explosions at some 700-plus sites in Yamal due to thawing permafrost

By 0 and 0 and 0
04 July 2017


New river funnel that formed on 28 June 2017. Picture: Yamal Region 

Startling details have emerged of last week's methane gas blowout on an Arctic riverbank: a sudden and deafening bang from a large explosion of the ground near a reindeer encampment, fire shooting into the sky and raging for several minutes from the eruption, huge chunks of charred permafrost blown out of the ground, and a deep, eerie crater forming, some 50 metres deep which immediately filled with water. 

Reindeer and dogs fled in fright. Sand and grass was blackened by the intense heat of the eruption which was described as 'a flame of fire and then a rising pillar of smoke'.

Scientists rushed to the scene on the Yamal Peninsula to examine the site in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, amid expert warnings that many can be expected as a warming climate leads to thawing permafrost and the release of potent methane gas which has lain frozen under the surface for thousands of years. 

The ground is 'swelling' at more than 700 sites on Yamal - known to locals as 'the end of the world' -  have been identified as potential explosion sites, but these are seen as the tip of an iceberg. 

Many are hillocks or knolls, some are pingos. 

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal
A reindeer herder tells about witnessing formation of a new crater. Pictures: Yamal Region 

Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, Russia's leading expert on this recently-noticed phenomenon of blowout craters, rushed from his Black Sea vacation to examine the debris.

The explosion and the resulting hole near Seyakha village is the latest of a dozen or so substantial known craters to form in Arctic Russia, mainly on Yamal, since 2014. 

Mikhail Okotetto told TV channel Yamal-region of a fellow herder who was close to the eruption.

'The reindeer fled to the south, but he had newborn calf (in his hands),' he said. 'So the reindeer and dogs, all ran away, and he was just left there standing with the newborn calf.'

Two new craters formed on the Yamal peninsula. Video courtesy Aleksandr Sokolov and Yamal Region

new craters Yamal
Previously known funnels, according to Professor Bogoyavlensky: F1 - famous Yamal hole 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. Picture: The Siberian Times

Dr Anton Sinitsky, director of the Arctic Research Centre, Salekhard, admitted to being startled by the force of the eruption.

'I am still slightly shocked,' he said. 

It was 'beyond any doubt that there was an explosion because charred sand and charred grass are visible by the funnel'.

He expressed the fear that such funnels 'can pop up anywhere' in permafrost Yamal.

new craters Yamal
Dr Anton Sinitsky. Picture: Yamal Region 

Alexander Mazharov, deputy governor of Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region, said: 'It is very important for us also to know what to do because such an eruption can occur anywhere.

'It might hit a technical facility, a residential settlement, or a linear object (a pipeline or railway).' 

Yamal has the biggest concentration of natural gas fields on the planet, and these can be threatened by exploding ground. 

Dr Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute, Moscow, sought to use an echo sounder to measure the depth of the submerged crater - but it was too deep. 

He resorted to casting a fishing line into the water, and it is close to 50 metres deep. 

Strong degassing of the subsoil is occurring in the bloated and thawing tundra, he said.

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal
Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky interrupted holiday and rushed to check the new crater. Pictures: Yamal Region 

In other places it can seep through the surface, but here the unevenly frozen surface layers can mean pockets of methane collect with  explosive force.

Such explosions can scatter a large tonnage of rocks hundreds of metres away from the blowhole, said one Yamal report.  

'Actually (degassing) is happening in all countries of the world, onshore and offshore,' said Dr Bogoyavlensky. 'Strong degassing is occurring in the Arctic.

'But what we have just seen is a drop in the ocean of this global degassing of subsoil.'

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal
Warnings of new Arctic explosions at some 700-plus sites in Yamal due to thawing permafrost. Pictures: Yamal Region 

Seismic sensors timed the explosion at 11am  on 28 June some 30 kilometres north west of the remote village of Seyakha.

The site is around 100 km of Russia's new state-of-the-art Arctic port of Sabetta. 

A second new crater - which exploded into being earlier this year - was also located this month by a group of scientists led by Dr Aleksandr Sokolov, deputy head of the ecological research and development station of the Institute of Ecology of Plants and Animals, in Labytnangi, Tyumen region. 

A mound of land along edges of the funnel confirms the fact of the explosion, he said. 

'This plot of land was absolutely flat just two years ago,' he said. 

'A year ago in 2016 it bulged and we could see that soil has cracked there.'

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal
A second crater that formed earlier in June 2017. Pictures: Aleksandr Sokolov

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. 

New river crater formed on 28 June 2018. Pictures: Yamal Region

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

new craters Yamal

Comments (10)

could somethign like that, at a far bigger scale, been the drama at the Tunguska site?now the holes are small, there are no trees around, just rocks and mud. suppose we will never know?
Benedikt MORAK, Moscow
09/07/2017 07:20
Ice sheets can create massively thick gas hydrate stability zones beneath them. When the ice sheets melt, that methane hydrate can persist in a meta-stable state, outside the hydrate stability zone, for thousands of years, according to some scientists.

How much methane? How much methane hydrate? This circular lake topography covers maybe a million square kilometers, and drilling rigs in NW Siberia often experience drilling rig blowouts, followed by huge amounts of natural gas release, at shallow depths of 50-200 meters.

Is there a regional layer of relic ice sheet methane hydrate under huge areas of Siberia?
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa / California / USA
06/07/2017 12:43
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 [Gas Hydrate - LP] stability zone could have reached the surface in the Yamal Region under climatic conditions corresponding to the glacial maximum about 90 ka, [90,000 years ago - LP] 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
06/07/2017 11:28
These methane blowouts are happening in a region that contains hundreds of thousands of small circular lakes. Were those hundreds of thousands of small lakes also created by methane blowout events?

Some scientists think that these craters could be an indication of an underlying layer of relic methane hydrate, left over from a glaciation event 90,000 years ago.

Impact of regional climatic change on the stability of relic gas hydrates Arzhanov et al.
Leland Palmer, Santa Rosa / California / USA
06/07/2017 11:24
These methane craters are seriously frightening indicators of what the Earth is doing in response to Human activities over the thousands of years that humans have lived on this planet. IPCC projections have been flawed because the IPCC is made up of scientists from many countries around the world, and therefore compromises are required in its conclusions due to politics. Many scientists outside the IPCC have been pressing alarm bells for some time, and we are now witnessing the results manifesting sooner than predicted. i
Kevin O'Dea, Launceston, Australia
06/07/2017 10:44
Positive feedbacks are gaining momentum. Russia please support CO2 remediation activities and voice your opinion to President Trump at the G20 meeting. Mr. Trump is committing ecocide.
Ken Tobin, USA
05/07/2017 10:00
My latest books and documentary. ‘The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science’. My latest documentary and video of my presentation. My website is The Trans-mountain Pipeline will add 3/10,000 of 1% CO2 to the atmosphere. Besides, CO2 is not a pollutant. “Human Caused Global Warming”, 'The Biggest Deception in History’.
Dr Tim Ball - Historical Climatologist, Canada
05/07/2017 07:11
I recently posted two YouTube videos discussing these Craters, Methane, and climate change implications.
For the latest on abrupt climate change see
Paul Beckwith, Ottawa, Canada
05/07/2017 01:57
The IPCC's scientists said the permafrost would be stable for another 50 to 100 years. And now, the months of hell are opening at the End of the world (Yamal) ! Conlusion 1 : global warming is speeding up and the IPCC forcasts are too optimistic. We have to act much faster than planned. Conclusion 2: We better start thinking hard for a solution for the thawing/exploding permafrost or we'll all be globally cooked much sooner than expected.

Idea n°1: What about placing drains before the pingos explode, provide a packing equipment in 50 or 100 L gas containers and give the whole free to the Nenets? They could transport the gas to villages and cities and sell them. They would get a revenue and that methane would not get released in the atmosphere. And some remote regions's people would get cheap energy. Just an idea.
Marina, EU
05/07/2017 00:28
The photographs convey something of the beautiful landscape, though one cannot quite imagine the sounds of the active physical forces and the smells from the soils waters and gases. The temperature rise from the escaping methane will surely make life difficult if not impossible for billions of people in the near future, there is nothing anyone can do. Countries are very ill prepared because they practice austerity politics instead of spending money for adaptation of living things to the changing earth. What an extraordinary reality has been shared in these images. Very best wishes also to the pe0ple living in these dangerous environs.
Anandi Sharan, Bangalore, India
04/07/2017 22:21

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