Two mysterious gaping holes have recently emerged in the frosty land of Siberia, accompanied by a "loud explosion-like bang" and a billowing plume of smoke and fire.
Scientists were lured to the area after a local reindeer herder reported a huge boom, a tower of fire, and black clouds of smoke in depths of Russia’s Yamal Peninsula in the Article Circle, the Siberian Times reports.
One of the holes is believed to have exploded at the beginning of this year and the other was on the morning of 28 June. The second bang was so loud it was picked up by seismic stations located in neighboring settlements and near a local gas field. The new hole is approximately eight meters (26 feet) in diameter and at least 20 meters (65 feet) deep.
“It happened some 35 to 40 kilometers [21 to 24 miles] northwest of Seyakha. Reindeer herder Yakov Vengo has a camp there,” fellow reindeer herder Mikhail Okotetto told local news, according to the Siberian Times.
“There was a hill not far from the camp, and it exploded. There was fire, smoke and huge chunks of soil 'flying out' of the epicenter. “
“The hill has vanished.”
Due to the explosive circumstances, the local scientists are treating this as a methane gas explosion. Many regions of the Arctic have methane locked within their permafrost. The thawing of this permafrost - often from natural cases, sometimes by exacerbated human-made process - causes this gas to “seep out.” If underground, it can cause a pressure build-up and eventually result in a pop and a bang. In this instance, it isn't clear how the fire was involved, although is methane is flammable.
“This plot of land was absolutely flat just two years ago. A year ago in 2016 it bulged and we could see that soil has cracked there,” added Dr Alexandr Sokolov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“The Nenets native people told us they saw fire in winter 2017, but it might mean January to March or April. In other words, it exploded when snow was still lying.”
These kinds of explosions have been previously documented in Siberia and elsewhere in the Arctic tip of the world. A recent study in the journal Science showed how portions of the Arctic seafloor is caked in craters caused by methane explosions.
The release of this methane is not just dangerous due to these hard-to-predict explosive tendencies. The release of this methane is also believed to have a dramatic effect on climate change. After all, just like carbon dioxide, it is a greenhouse gas.