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Trembling tundra - the latest weird phenomenon in Siberia's land of craters

By 0 and 0 and 0
20 July 2016


Bubbling earth. Picture: Alexander Sokolov

This extraordinary sight - in a video filmed of the tundra on remote Belyy Island in the Kara Sea off the Yamal Peninsula coastline - was witnessed by a scientific research expedition. Researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich spotted 15 patches of trembling or bubbling grass-covered ground.

When punctured they emitted methane and carbon dioxide, according to measurements, although so far no details have been given. The reason is as yet unclear, but one possible explanation of the phenomenon is abnormal heat that caused permafrost to thaw, releasing gases.

Alexander Sokolov said that this summer is unusually hot on the Arctic island, a sign of which is polar bears moving from the frozen sea to the island.

Trembling methane bubbles 

Scientists have warned at the potential catastrophic impact of global warming leading to the release into the atmosphere of harmful gases hitherto frozen in the ground or under the sea. A possibility is that the trembling tundra on Bely Island is this process in action. 

Further south, on the Yamal and Taimyr peninsulas, scientists are actively observing a number of craters that have suddenly formed in the permafrost. 

When the craters first appeared on the Yamal Peninsula - known to locals as "the end of the world" - they sparked bizarre theories as to their formation. 

They ranged from meteorites to stray missiles fired by Vladimir Putin's military machine and from manmade pranks to the work of visiting aliens. Most experts now believe they were created by explosions of methane gas unlocked by warming temperatures in the far north of Russia.

Trembling tundra - the latest weird phenomenon in Siberia's land of craters

Trembling tundra - the latest weird phenomenon in Siberia's land of craters

Trembling tundra - the latest weird phenomenon in Siberia's land of craters
Scientists discovered 15 'bubbles' filled with methane and CO2. Pictures: Alexander Sokolov/Vesti

On Yamal, the main theory is that the craters were formed by pingos - dome-shaped mounds over a core of ice - erupting under pressure of methane gas released by the thawing of permafrost caused by climate change.

The Yamal craters, some tiny but others large, were created by natural gas filling vacant space in ice humps, eventually triggering eruptions, according to leading authority Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, of Moscow's Oil and Gas Research Institute. 

Recently there were accounts of a 'big bang' leading to the formation of a crater on the Taimyr Peninsula. 

The noise could be heard up to 100 kilometres away and one resident. They saw a 'glow in the sky' after the explosion. 

Taimyr crater

Taimyr crater
The Taimyr crater - after it was discovered and a year and a half after it was found. Pictures: The Siberian Times 

The crater was first seen by reindeer herders who almost fell into it soon after the 2013 eruption.

Since the crater was formed in a 2013 blowout, its size rapidly increased at least 15 times during the next year and a half.

It is expected to be even wider now but no recent scientific surveys have been made to the remote site.  

Our pictures show the so-called Deryabinsky crevice in snow soon after it was formed, when the hole was some four metres in width, and the latest known pictures which illustrate how it is now a lake, some 70 metres in diameter. 

Alexander Sokolov is head of ecological R&D station of the Institute of Ecology of Plants and Animals of the Ural Department of the RAS in Labytnangi, Tyumen region.

Ehrich is a researcher at the University of Tromso, The Arctic University of Norway.

Comments (13)

Russia should fire 5,000 non-explosive bunker buster missiles into the Siberian methane bubbles as soon as possible. The non-explosive approach will help release trapped methane without the risk of Flaring the methane in a similar manner as do oil wells. Any detonation/explosion might cause the fireball from an explosive missile to ignite the escaping methane which might lead to the Flaring effect. Simply releasing a flood of methane will help heat the earth more quickly in order to open the Northern Sea Route and North Pole Sea Route while also allowing quicker access to Arctic oil and natural gas. Plus, the methane release effort can help flood Lake Charles and, all of Louisiana -plus, possibly Fox News Headquarters -in NYC and, possibly a large amount of Saudi Arabia more quickly. A wonderful thing to happen!
Gregor, No where, Divided States of America
20/11/2020 06:28
Time to ralize that working 'with' nature is better than 'against'.

So make a paradigm shift!

Sea level rising. Fit buildongs withfloatable mechanisms/balloons/air tanks/etc to keep positions, anker to bottom with posts/piles like floating jetties.

Stop fearing and take on the challenges presented.

The Great Book has in anyway prophesised the this earth will come to an end with fire from heaven/the sky (where the metane gas is sitting). just think how quickly it will explode when we are hit by a decent asteroid at the ingnition spot, there where the methan/oxygen level is at ingition point concentration. One BOOM and it will be all over rover. As prophesised in the Great BOOK.

Enjoythis life as long as we can.

The end is near.
Jurgen Komp, Tauranga New Zealand
01/08/2017 17:25
Bernie, of COURSE the 'Methane Layer' can... and will circle the Earth. It's GAME OVER. By 2042 +\- 3 yrs the Northern Hemisphere WILL become unable to sustain Human life: https://sites.google.com/site/runawayglobalwarming/the-non-disclosed-extreme-arctic-methane-threat - AND of COURSE the Methane currently being released IS acting like a giant magnifying glass warming Earth 30x faster than even CO2. It's a Juggernaut: An unstoppable chain reaction. Happened before,... and it's happening N O W. Enjoy the ride gang. -Marc* the Arcturian

Marc** the Arcturian, Riverside, CA USA
23/07/2017 06:30
are there underground booms from the methane coming up? That's happening here for past few years all over the state. Cell towers or radio frequency towers emit 2.5 hertz causing streets to crack, and sinkholes to develop all over the city. Road repairs are being done by the towers constantly.Ambulance sirens have increased to 3 daily since towers were installed. Siberian sinkhole, recent one looks like a UFO burrowed from the ground. Arizona is a hotspot for watching UFO's due to clear skies and city lights illuminate them underneath when they fly close.Seen so many it's boring.
ann onymous, usa, arizona
30/10/2016 01:23
Obviously they have an irrigation leak.
Kyle, Texas
03/09/2016 21:53
I would very much like to respond to a response from veli albert kallio, who had responded to my previous post.
Thank you for that informative response, wow!
Please be so kind as to tell me the methane layer could not possibly encircle the entire planet. With the estimates of "stored carbon", the methane content of the "methane" layer is probably going to act as a magnifying glass.
bernie, st louis missouri, USA
25/07/2016 12:46
LOL! "...as a result of Global Warming..."

Defiant, Reality/Earth
23/07/2016 07:52
We had 'peek oil' 40 years ago when they had to pump the oil up when it stoped pumping it's self up. This is 2016 why aren't they harvesting this free energy, as its forcing it's own way up? Here and elseware they have to force water down to get the gas up ie 'raking gas'
Trevor, Ausralia
22/07/2016 02:11
I highly recommend people watch this presentation by Dr. Natalia Shakhova (University of Alaska/Fairbanks), speaking about Arctic methane. Watch the entire presentation (8+ min.) ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx1Jxk6kjbQ
Cori Gunnells, Prescott/United States
21/07/2016 11:01
I would like to add Bernie's comment that methane (CH4) is currently building up in the atmosphere (in the upper parts of troposphere and stratosphere) where at 75 mB level its amount has increased 30-fold in the last 3 years. This is very troublesome not because of risk of it igniting, but because it is exceedingly powerful greenhouse gas: molecule-to-molecule it is 256 x more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules. The recent accumulation occurs in high altitudes because methane is no longer sufficiently oxidised by hydroxyl (OH-) to a less dangerous greenhouse gas of carbon dioxide (CO2). Hydroxyl's presence in the atmosphere requires presence of water molecules (H2O) which are broken up by ultraviolet light to produce (OH-), but there are only limited amount of UV light available to convert water vapour to hydroxyl. As methane increased, it surpassed the atmosphere’s capacity for hydroxyl to oxidise it. It now ends up above cloud level in extremely arid upper troposphere and stratosphere where its atmospheric half-life grows considerably due to lack of water vapour. As a result air above cloud level is increasingly methane-saturated just as Bernie points out.
Veli Albert Kallio, Bracknell, Berkshire, UK
21/07/2016 06:46
The big question is:

Will these vast amounts of methane gas, released into the atmosphere, be enough to trigger contemporary Meltwater Pulse 1A?

It will be a monumental task to relocate every major seaport, every coastal nuclear power plant, and every coastal oil refinery — simultaneously, and with only 20- to 30-years deadline. During the Meltwater Pulse 1A event, the sea level was rising with approximately 50 ~ 60 mm annually. (180 cm sea level rise in 30 years!)
Emil Teofanov, Earth, Solar system
21/07/2016 03:52
I have been wondering about the amount of methane that is being released, huge quantities from a vast tremendous area, as the methane rises up into the atmosphere will it gather into a methane layer? Something that resembles the clouds from a fire, that only go up to a certain height, then begin to spread out across the sky. With so much methane venting from the surface, what really causes me concern is the question will the methane concentrations in the atmosphere still be flammable once they begin to gather together?
It would be another question that is reasonable, should it happen that somehow the methane is ignited, would it burn in an explosion type release, like fireworks? Or would it burn slowly and continuously for years (if not decades) shimmering like the northern lights?
bernie, st louis missouri, USA
21/07/2016 01:51
Chimneys could be use to release the pressure of methane gas, as it is used in landfills...
Enrique, Spain
21/07/2016 01:28

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