Gas Cavities

February 26, 2015

s-GIANT-HOLE-largeRain spatters on the back patio this afternoon on California’s north coast, but only a little bit at a time, way less than a drizzle, and really not much more than a damp wind.
Supposedly, the real stuff is forecast to arrive later tonight, or early in the morning — less than a tenth-of-an-inch predicted.

Also this afternoon, news from Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula, which means “ends of the world,” and discovery of more giant craters, like the one at right (found here).

Last summer, and from all indications, ‘seemingly out of nowhere,’ a massive, 300-foot-wide crater was found by a passing reindeer guy (my post here), and later a couple more were located nearby, all around the frozen headland sticking out into the Kara Sea in way-northern Russia — scientists dropped into the giant holes last November in efforts to figure just how the shit they came to be, but apparently no real definitive answer has been reported.
The general consensus, though, is the giant holes were most-likely caused by methane released from the permafrost — not a good thing for our already-warming planet.
Recent satellite data appears to show a couple of dozen or more of ‘unexplored‘ craters dotting the peninsula, according to the Siberian Times:

Respected Moscow scientist Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky has called for ‘urgent’ investigation of the new phenomenon amid safety fears.
Until now, only three large craters were known about in northern Russia with several scientific sources speculating last year that heating from above the surface due to unusually warm climatic conditions, and from below, due to geological fault lines, led to a huge release of gas hydrates, so causing the formation of these craters in Arctic regions.

‘We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,’ he said. ‘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.
‘We have exact locations for only four of them. The other three were spotted by reindeer herders. But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them.
‘I would compare this with mushrooms: when you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.’

And via LiveScience earlier this afternoon:

Although the origin of these craters remains somewhat mysterious, many scientists think they were created by explosions of high-pressure gas released from melting permafrost, or frozen soil, due to the warming of the climate.
“In my opinion, it definitely relates to warming and permafrost,” said Vladimir Romanovsky,a geophysicist who studies permafrost at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Romanovsky thinks he knows how this occurs: Pressurized gas — mostly methane, but possibly carbon dioxide as well — exists beneath the permafrost.
Since warming temperatures thaw the permafrost from the bottom up, an underground cavity forms, Romanovsky said.
As the gas gets close to the surface, it deforms the ground above, creating a small hill.
Finally, the pressurized gas erupts through the surface, forming a crater, he said.

These craters should only form when the temperature is warm enough to melt the permafrost.
“If the warming continues, we will see more and more of this phenomenon,” Romanovsky said.
It could happen anywhere there are enough sources of natural gas, including parts of Alaska and northwestern Canada, he added.

And the climate change scare? Although a much-smaller contribitor to global warming than CO2, methane released into the air becomes insidious (via Climate Central from last year): ‘“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.”

Meanwhile, back to the mundane afternoon drizzle, or whatever…

 

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