The RAS team is creating a 3D model of one of the largest craters found in Yamal. Scientists warn of an increase in their number and explain the reasons for their appearance. For almost two years, various expeditions of experts studied this phenomenon, after which they came to the conclusion that we are talking about local explosions or emissions of gas bubbles accumulated in the depths.
The discovery of large circular crater-like holes on the Yamal Peninsula (northwestern Siberia, Russia) generated a lot of interest in academia in 2014. In turn, the few residents of this region, who had a chance to observe this phenomenon, call them nothing more than “doomsday failures”.
Melting of permafrost, possibly related to climate change, is also one of the reasons for the formation of these unique craters.
In February 2021, a team of specialists led by Vasily Bogoyavlensky from the Russian Academy of Sciences published the results of the latest research on this phenomenon in the scientific journal Geoscience. The title of the article speaks for itself: "A new catastrophic gas explosion and a giant crater on the Yamal Peninsula in 2020: the results of the expedition and data processing."
In this article, the authors provide new details about the formation and structure of craters in Yamal and, thanks to the use of drones, present the first digital 3D model of one of them, the so-called C17 crater, formed between May 15 and June 9, 2020.
The team, led by Vasily Bogoyavlensky, described a specific crater, and also expressed their concern about the noticeable increase in the number of such explosions in recent years. The team recalls that these explosions release a significant amount of methane into the atmosphere, which in turn has the most significant greenhouse effect known compound.
In other words, holes in Yamal are not only of interest and pose a local threat, they can have a negative impact on climate change, as well as the entire process of melting permafrost in general. The fact is that when permafrost melts, greenhouse gases that were previously stored in the bowels of the earth enter the atmosphere.
On January 29, an article appeared on the news site The Siberian Times, which presented the results of the C17 study and recalled that, according to experts from the Institute of Oil and Gas Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, there are more than seven thousand hills under which such reservoirs with methane are formed, which can also explode. "Scientists are calling for an immediate increase in surveillance of potentially explosive permafrost mounds," the Siberian Times article is titled, reflecting the concerns of teams of scientists like the Bogoyavlensky team.
The area of the Yamal Peninsula is 120 thousand square kilometers; this area contains the largest reserves of methane on the planet.
Scientists explain that the first such large explosion occurred in the fall of 2013; since then, about 20 such incidents have been recorded in Yamal and the adjacent territories of Eastern Siberia.
The last of them is the formation of the C17 crater 35 meters deep in the summer of 2020.
Today, this dip can be partially viewed from the air. The reason for its formation was the explosion and the subsequent release of a large amount of methane. “In the first 30 days, the volume of emitted gas varied from three thousand cubic meters to 500 cubic meters per day. A total of about 300 thousand cubic meters of gas either entered the atmosphere or burned out during the explosion,”experts explain in an article published in Geosciences.
“According to the digital 3D model, the crater diameter is about 25 meters, the dimensions of the elliptical hole are about 15x18 meters. The underground cavity in the ice mass is about 13-15 meters wide, its length in the direction of the caves is more than 60 meters. In general, the total volume of the underground cavity is about ten thousand cubic meters, of which seven and a half thousand cubic meters are in ice,”the authors of the study report.
Scientists confirm that these explosions, recorded both on land and under water in the lakes and rivers of the Yamal Peninsula, are caused by the accumulation of methane in the thawing permafrost cavities, including in the ice underground.
Despite the scientific value of the results of the study of C17, scientists remind that much more research is needed to determine the scale of this phenomenon in relation to the global balance of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its impact on climate change.