Huge new craters are spontaneously opening up in the melting permafrost in northern Russia. Though the exact cause is as yet undermined, the sudden appearance of an enormous new crater surrounded by 20 little ones – within six miles of a major gas product plant – has put residents and scientists on high alert.
Professor Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences said, "It is important not to scare people, but this is a very serious problem. … We must research this phenomenon urgently to prevent possible disasters. We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite."
Residents near a recently discovered crater on the Yamal Peninsula reported seeing a flash of light, which scientists believe may have been the result of exploding gas. Researchers are now urgently seeking to discover what areas are the most volatile and under what conditions as the answers are critical to the operation of northern cities as well as to the infrastructure of oil and gas complexes.
Global warming appears to be a primary catalyst triggering the blasts that result in the formation of the craters. And since the eruption of methane hydrates locked inside the permafrost may well be the cause of the blasts, there is concern that Lake Baikal, the largest, oldest freshwater lake in the world, may be sitting on a repository of gas that could explode like a time bomb.
An alternative explanation for the proliferation of giant craters is the presence of two tectonic fault lines across the Yamal Peninsula. The blowouts could be caused by the movement of the plates and the higher than normal temperatures melting the ice.
On a brighter note, the appearance of the craters – and the theory that they are formed by the explosion of gas hydrates – may now help scientists solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. Gas hydrates are ice-like forms of water that contain gas molecules including methane. And they exist in permafrost areas like northern Siberia but also under the oceans in some parts of the world.
Speaking to The Siberian Times, Russian scientist Igor Yeltsov said: "There is a version that the Bermuda Triangle is a consequence of gas hydrates reactions. … They start to actively decompose with methane ice turning into gas. … It happens in an avalanche-like way, like a nuclear reaction, producing huge amounts of gas. … That makes ocean to heat up and ships sink in its waters mixed with a huge proportion of gas…. The same leads to the air to get supersaturated with methane, which makes the atmosphere extremely turbulent and lead to aircraft crashes."
As Dion Dassanayaki, the reporter who wrote about the parallel between the triangle and the craters pointed out (in his article on www.express.co.uk), “one of the regions where the holes appeared, called Yamal, translates into ‘the end of the world. The phrase has also been used to describe the Bermuda Triangle.”