Mysterious Siberian hole likely due to methane buildup and release

Aug 01, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
This frame grab made Wednesday, July 16, 2014, shows a crater, discovered recently in the Yamal Peninsula, in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia. Russian scientists said Thursday July 17, 2014 that they believe the 60-meter wide crater, discovered recently in far northern Siberia, could be the result of changing temperatures in the region. Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic, traveled on Wednesday to the crater. Plekhanov said 80 percent of the crater appeared to be made up of ice and that there were no traces of an explosion, eliminating the possibility that a meteorite had struck the region. (AP Photo/Associated Press Television)

(Phys.org) —A team of Russian researchers who visited the site of one of the mysterious holes that have appeared in the ground in parts of Siberia is theorizing that the likely cause is methane buildup and release, the journal Nature is reporting.

Last month reindeer herders in the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia came across a mysterious hole in the ground—after reporting what they'd discovered, a helicopter was dispatched and personnel aboard took snapshots of what was found. The photos have since gone viral on the Internet generating speculation about what caused the hole to come about—some suggested it was nothing more than a meteor crater or sinkhole, others seemed convinced it was part of an alien invasion, while others yet postulated that it was probably the remains of a collapsed pingo (a mound of earth covered ice). Now, after visiting the site of the first hole discovered, a team of researchers has concluded that the hole, and others like it that have been spotted, are most likely due to a sudden release of methane as permafrost melts. They note Siberia has experienced extremely the past two years.

After sending a sensor down into the hole the researchers found an unusually high concentration of methane—9.6 percent, as compared to the normal 0.000179 percent. That finding and the fact that mounds of dirt near the mouth of hole indicate a blast of some sort occurred, has the researchers convinced that the warm summers caused permafrost melting which released underground methane. Gas pressure, they believe, built up to a tipping point, then was suddenly released, pushing out the material that had been sitting on top of it. Oddly, the depth of the hole is still not known. The researchers lowered a camera, but the line used was not long enough to allow for reaching the water (likely from melting permafrost) at the bottom. They estimate the depth to the water is approximately 70 meters. They would not even venture a guess as to the depth of the hole below the water.

The researchers plan a return visit to the hole to conduct more research but aren't confident of what they will find—they note that the walls are already collapsing and water movement can be heard, suggesting that whatever evidence exists now, might be gone by the time they return.

Explore further: What created this huge crater in Siberia?

More information: Mysterious Siberian crater attributed to methane, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature.2014.15649

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What created this huge crater in Siberia?

Jul 17, 2014

What is it with Russia and explosive events of cosmic origins? The 1908 Tunguska Explosion, the Chelyabinsk bolide of February 2013, and now this: an enormous 80-meter wide crater discovered in the Yamal ...

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

66-yard crater appears in far northern Siberia

Jul 18, 2014

Russian scientists say they believe a 60-meter (66-yard) wide crater discovered recently in far northern Siberia could be the result of changing temperatures in the region.

Recommended for you

Sculpting tropical peaks

5 hours ago

Tropical mountain ranges erode quickly, as heavy year-round rains feed raging rivers and trigger huge, fast-moving landslides. Rapid erosion produces rugged terrain, with steep rivers running through deep ...

Volcano expert comments on Japan eruption

6 hours ago

Loÿc Vanderkluysen, PhD, who recently joined Drexel as an assistant professor in Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, returned Friday from fieldwork ...

NASA's HS3 looks Hurricane Edouard in the eye

19 hours ago

NASA and NOAA scientists participating in NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel (HS3) mission used their expert skills, combined with a bit of serendipity on Sept. 17, 2014, to guide the remotely piloted ...

User comments : 22

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

axemaster
5 / 5 (6) Aug 01, 2014
This is not good. If we're already at or past the methane tipping point... it bodes very ill for the future.
Enviro Equipment Blog
1.7 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2014
Seriously. I would hate to think that this is going to become a typical occurrence in the Arctic due to global warming. However, I'm surprised no one heard anything as I would assume that such a single being caused by methane buildup would result in a rather loud explosion.

Maybe aliens are invading Earth after all.

:)
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (4) Aug 01, 2014
Are you f@#$ing kidding me? They didn't bring a rope with a weight to measure the hole depth?

Suggest firing all the researchers and hire some teenagers. They'd figure out how deep it is for sure.

And still not a single decent picture?
jonekat
5 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2014
Suggest firing all the researchers and hire some teenagers.


If we used teenagers they would have ran up to the hole, fell in, and we still wouldn't know how deep the hole is ;0)
hemitite
not rated yet Aug 01, 2014
That was one hell of a crepitation!
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2014
Seriously. I would hate to think that this is going to become a typical occurrence in the Arctic due to global warming. However, I'm surprised no one heard anything as I would assume that such a single being caused by methane buildup would result in a rather loud explosion.

Maybe aliens are invading Earth after all.

:)


It seems that all the ejecta is fairly close to the hole so my guess is that any explosion would not have been too powerful. More like a gas bubble bursting in thick mud just pushing the material aside. IMHO

Probably be easier to tell if they would hire a PROFESSIONAL photographer
jonekat
5 / 5 (1) Aug 01, 2014
Jeweller
5 / 5 (3) Aug 01, 2014
It seems like the Russians are not particularly interested in "getting to the bottom of this".
Stavanger
5 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2014
So... Earth farted?
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Aug 02, 2014
Send in a drone
antigoracle
1 / 5 (4) Aug 02, 2014
Wow!!
So global warming melted the permafrost, which resulted in methane release from a single point over 70 meters down. Right, I guess the fact that fracking in that area could have caused this is too far fetched.
http://grist.org/...e-world/
Maggnus
not rated yet Aug 02, 2014
So... Earth farted?
Hahaha best explanation so far!!
gerald wilhite
not rated yet Aug 02, 2014
Scientific wild ass guessing.
ab3a
5 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2014
What about dropping a stone in there and listening for the echo when it hits bottom?

It's not perfect, but it's at least good enough to know what magnitude of depth we're talking about here.
howhot2
5 / 5 (4) Aug 03, 2014
Everyone can blame global warming on this one. It was a giant humongous bubble of methane pushing up through a melted Russian permafrost. Just another one of the environmental feedback mechanisms created by global warming.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2014
Not everyone howhot, just the ignorant AGW Chicken Littles like yourself.
Perhaps you would like to enlighten us as to how melting permafrost would result in the buildup of methane at a single point over 70 meters down.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2014
Not everyone howhot, just the ignorant AGW Chicken Littles like yourself.
Perhaps you would like to enlighten us as to how melting permafrost would result in the buildup of methane at a single point over 70 meters down.


Suggest you dive in head first to investigate.

Who else will chip in on antigoracle's one way ticket to Siberia?
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2014
Not everyone howhot, just the ignorant AGW Chicken Littles like yourself.
Perhaps you would like to enlighten us as to how melting permafrost would result in the buildup of methane at a single point over 70 meters down.


Suggest you dive in head first to investigate.

Now THAT would be a bungee jump to remember (or not)...:-)
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2014
Suggest you dive in head first to investigate.

Who else will chip in on antigoracle's one way ticket to Siberia?
-rockturd
Oh, look mummy let her little turd out of the basement to play.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2014
Suggest you dive in head first to investigate.

Who else will chip in on antigoracle's one way ticket to Siberia?
-rockturd
Oh, look mummy let her little turd out of the basement to play.


Yes but it looks like your doctor's want to keep you locked up at the institute indefinitely.

I will ask if they will let you out for your "plunge of discovery." My guess is they will agree if they know you won't come back.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2014
Does mummy know her little rockturd is soiling this website, like he soils her basement.
howhot2
5 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2014
@antigoracle. This is just one example a global warming feed back mechanism. Here is how. AGW has warmed an melted the permafrost making the soil nice, muddy and loose. Normally frozen water seeps down and mixes with the methane and under heat a pressure, the methane water mix explodes straight-up the soda straw. This was all predicted and written about by Al Gore; that AGW feed back mechanism would melt the permafrost and release vast stores of trapped methane. The release methane would further accelerate global warming.

It's amazing how accurate Al Gore was on the Hockey Stick.