Mystery Hole at the ‘End of the World’

July 17, 2014

s-GIANT-HOLE-largeGround fog again this early Thursday on California’s north coast as the work week starts to grind down toward the finish line of Friday afternoon.
The weekend is now in plain sight.

Yesterday, one discovery was the weird crater on the Russian Siberian peninsula of Yamal, which means the ‘end of the world.’ All kinds of theories abound, from UFOs to meteorites, but the reality might be worse — climate change.

(Illustration found here).

The hole is estimated to be nearly 300-feet across, and no one yet knows how deep. The site is located in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, a strategic oil and gas bearing region of Russia, up north of the Arctic Circle. And at this point, from all the material I’ve come across so far, no one has a freakin’ clue to what caused it.
Today, supposedly a scientific team of experts, which will include two from the Centre for the Study of the Arctic, and one from Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, will travel to the crater to check it out and collect soil, air and water samples.
From the Washington Post this morning:

According to video originally shot by a TV station run by the Russian Ministry of Defense — video which The Washington Post was unable to verify — the crater appeared about 20 miles from Yamal’s biggest gas field, igniting an international intrigue.
But beyond the fact that the hole is there, and huge, and that everyone’s intrigued by it, there’s not that much concrete information to go on.

One thing’s certain, a spokesman of the Yamal Emergencies Ministry said. “We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite,” the spokesman told the Siberian Times. “No details yet.”
Anna Kurchatova of the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center contended an explosion caused it.
But not a manmade one.
No underground Russian missile silo did this.
Rather it was global warming.
Kurchatova said warming temperatures have caused an “alarming” permafrost melt in Arctic zones.
According to this theory, the melting permafrost spewed gas until — pow! — pressure caused on explosion.
Others don’t blame gas emitted through global warming, but the gas that drives the Russian economy.
“The Siberian area the crater was found in — the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, which lies approximately 20 miles from the Bovanenkovo gas field — is one of the most geologically young places on Earth,” according to the science Web site From Quarks to Quasars.
“It also happens to be extremely rich in gas.
“In fact, it contains the largest natural gas reservoir in all of Russia (it might even be the largest gas reserve on the planet).”

The crater may also have been caused by something called a “pingo.”
That’s a block of underground ice that can push through the Earth to reach the surface, where it melts and leaves a hole behind.
The region’s permafrost can be hundreds of feet thick, a width that may engender such an glacial push, Chris Fogwill, a polar scientist at the University of New South Wales, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s just a remarkable land form,” he said.
“This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.”

Odd, but freakish in a dangerous sort of way. The “pingo” aspect might be the best bet right now, but another more nefarious tact might be in the works — big-deal methane leak.
Last May, Climate Central looked at the unknown knowns of this Arctic time bomb:

The methane emissions stemming from melting permafrost could be critical to determining how fast the climate will change in the future.
“Methane emissions are one example of a positive feedback between ecosystems and the climate system,” Turetsky said.
“The permafrost carbon feedback is one of the important and likely consequences of climate change, and it is certain to trigger additional warming.”
Warming and thawing permafrost stimulate methane release, which enhances the greenhouse effect, creating a feedback loop, she said.
“Even if we ceased all human emissions, permafrost would continue to thaw and release carbon into the atmosphere,” Turetsky said.
“Instead of reducing emissions, we currently are on track with the most dire scenario considered by the IPCC.
“There is no way to capture emissions from thawing permafrost as this carbon is released from soils across large regions of land in very remote spaces.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected in its fifth assessment on climate change report that the earth’s average temperatures could warm by as much as 8.64°F above 1986-2005 temperatures if nothing is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The paleo record shows that the Arctic was several degrees warmer during the last interglacial period 120,000 years ago, and there is no evidence of increased levels of methane in the atmosphere during that period, he said.
“It’s not to say at some point it won’t become an issue,” Schmidt said, adding that there is evidence of many “methane burps” across the globe in the very distant past.
“The planet is very capable of surprising us,” he said.

More details and photographs at  Sploid, the Siberian Times and at The Sydney Morning Herald.

And like the guy said, our own home can really, really surprise us with little hidden horrors — at the end of the world.

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