What’s behind the huge crater in northern Russia

What's behind the huge crater in northern Russia
Image: from Twitter

A massive 50-meter-deep crater was accidentally discovered by a Russian film crew earlier this summer while flying over the Yamal PeninsulaScientists explained the causes of its formation.

A group of scientists, who have since visited the site, revealed that the hole was most likely formed due to a huge explosion caused by the accumulation of methane under the ground, a process known as Cryovolcanism. Methane is believed to accumulate in thawing permafrost pockets below the surface.

“Until now, there is no comprehensive theory for the formation of these craters,” said Dr. Evgueni Chuvilin, a researcher at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. He pointed out that the explosive events behind them are too rare and too difficult to capture on the spot to study properly because a new crater typically lives for only one or two years, and these are remote areas with little observation.

Scientists believe that methane is trapped in deep pockets of thawed soil. The accumulated gas puts an immense amount of pressure on the ground, so once the permafrost that covers it begins to thaw, it becomes unstable and can cause massive explosions

As temperatures rise around the world and the climate warms, melting of permafrost becomes more common and thus leads to more crater formations, scientists say.

“Climate change could also be a factor in these cryogenic processes, as excessive warming in the upper layer of permafrost can contribute to these explosions. But this is still something that requires a lot of careful research, Chuvilin said.

The crater is at least the ninth of its kind seen in the region since 2013. Chuvilin noted that the most recent crater is one of the largest they have found so far. 

“What we saw today is striking in its size and grandeur,” he detailed.