Satellite photos have now revealed that the three giant craters found in the Siberian permafrost region last summer are not alone. Imagery of the Yamal Peninsula (natively translated as “End of the World”) and its neighboring upper Siberian regions in Russia display dozens more. And one scientist is calling for more studies into the phenomenon that he says could threaten possible disaster.
LiveScience reported Feb. 26 that satellite photos showed four more large craters in the Siberian permafrost. One of the craters is now a small lake and is surrounded by as many as 20 “mini” craters stippling the landscape in its vicinity.
“We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,” Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a scientist at the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. “Five are directly on the Yamal Peninsula, one in Yamal autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr Peninsula.”
Bogoyavlensky is calling for scientific expeditions, much like that undertaken last summer to explore the giant Siberian crater now referred to as B1, to the newfound holes. Given some of the holes’ close proximity to massive underground natural gas reserves, he noted that their formation — or possible formation — could pose a danger to the people and businesses of the region.
Bogoyavlensky explained that two objects located on the Yamal Peninsula near the first-found crater indicate possible ongoing underground reactions that might prove dangerous should there be a sudden gas emission or some form of subterranean expulsion from beneath the surface. But not only does the possibility of instability of the area pose a threat to those living and working there, it would also harbor dangers for those who would attempt to glean scientific data from the sinkholes and their environs. He said that the Vladimir Pushkarev, director of the Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration and leader of the November 2014 expedition to B1, was not only the first man to descend into one of the giant craters, he also did so at the risk of the unknown and could have possibly become a victim of a sudden emission or expulsion.
Although scientists now believe they know how the craters were formed, last summer, when three had been discovered in a matter of weeks, there was a rush to uncover the causes of their seeming mysterious formation. The first — and largest — was found when a group of reindeer herders inadvertently wandered upon it. A subsequent photo of the massive 260 feet (80 meters) sinkhole went viral, with everyone from scientists to UFO enthusiasts offering up possible explanations for their existence.
In an article published in Nature at the end of July, it was posited that the giant Siberian holes were created by pressurized methane gas being expelled from underneath the melting permafrost. The unusually high concentrations of methane (up to 9.6 percent) at the bottom of the crater measured in tests conducted on site in July were far higher than the norm, which is usually just 0.000179% methane. It was ultimately determined that the elevated concentrations of methane was due to the continuing increasing high temperatures in the region which contributed to the release of trapped gases and increasing underground pressurized pockets.