Mysterious crater discovered in Siberia | Polarjournal
Seven craters have already been discovered, but more are suspected. (Photo: Vasily Bogolajenski)

More and more mysterious craters are being discovered in Siberia. Russian professor Vasily Bogolavensky, vice-president of the Oil and Gas Institute (IPNG) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, reports that a total of seven larger holes have been discovered so far, according to the Siberian Times. Four were found using satellite images and three more had been discovered by reindeer herders. A meteorite impact is ruled out as a cause.

The image of the newest crater was taken by air by the Yamal-based vesty television station Vesti Yamal in July 2020. (Photo: Vesti Yamal)

The recently found new hole is the latest in northern Siberia since the phenomenon was first registered in 2014. It was discovered by chance by a Vesti Yamal TV team on the way to another site on the flyby. A group of scientists then undertook an expedition to study the large cylindrical crater with a depth of up to 50 meters. Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Russian Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow told Vesti Yamal: “This new object is unique. It contains a lot of additional scientific information that I do not want to disclose yet. This is a topic for scientific publications. We need to analyse all of this and create three-dimensional models.” Such craters are thought to be caused by the accumulation of methane gas in cavities in the thawing permafrost below the surface

A total of 7 methane gas holes with similar characteristics to the Jamal crater were discovered. According to unofficial reports by observers on the ground, local scientists estimate that the likely count is now between 20 and 30 original craters with many more secondary craters. (Photo: Heiner Kubny / Google).

How do the craters form?

One of the possible theories is that the huge hole was caused by a phenomenon known as pingo. This is a mound of earth created in the permafrost. The interior of the hill consists of an ice core. When the ice melts, it can leave a gaping hole.

The other favored theory is that the hole was caused by an underground methane explosion at the bottom of a crater. For example, a mixture of methane-ice stored in the permafrost is considered the most likely explanation for the craters.

One of the new craters, surrounded by at least 20 smaller holes, is only ten kilometers from the large gas production plant “Bovanenkovo”. Most likely, however, there is no connection with gas extraction.

Scientists, however, are still largely baffled by the exact processes that cause the craters. Until now, only three Siberian craters had been found in the frozen landscape when they were discovered by passing helicopter pilots.

We now know of seven craters in the Arctic,” Professor Bogojawlenski told the Siberian Times. Five are located directly on the Yamal Peninsula, one in the Yamal Autonomous Precinct and one in the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr Peninsula. But I’m sure there are more craters on Yamal, we just have to look for them.

Most methane gas craters are filled with mud and water. (Photo: Vasily Bogolavjenski)

The first hole was discovered by helicopter pilots 20 kilometres from a gas extraction plant in Bovanenkovo on the Yamal Peninsula in 2014.

A study of the area using satellite imagery, comparing landscapes in the past with the present, has indicated to Russian experts that the phenomenon is more widespread than initially thought.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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