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Would You Know Climate Change from a Hole in the Ground?

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Could climate change explain why this hole opened up in Russia's Yamal Peninsula?
Could climate change explain why this hole opened up in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula?

Climate change is affecting many different parts of the world, apparently in ways we do not yet fully understand, and may never understand. How about expanding and rupturing gas pockets in the permafrost of the northern Russian steppe?

There’s a new hole in the Russian Yamal Peninsula, which has some people baffled, “Was it another meteorite strike? a sinkhole?” Google “weird Russia,” and I’m sure you’ll come up with a thousand hits on all the strange happenings, from the atmospheric to the geological, as well as all manner of dashcam accidents, fights, and heartwarming humanitarian activities. Now that you’re back after a Russian YouTube binge, I’m sure you ran across this new “hole” that’s opened up into the recesses of Dante’s Inferno in the remote north of Russia, the Yamal Peninsula. Interestingly, “Yamal” literally means “end of the world,” though it could aptly take on the rest of R.E.M.’s refrain, “as we know it.”

Scientists are struggling to understand the causes of the 260-ft wide 200-ft deep hole in the ground, which seems to be raised around its borders, just as if impacted by a meteorite or exploded from within. However, scientists says it’s definitely not a meteorite, as meteors don’t leave holes, but impact craters. Scientists ruled out sinkhole, as well, since there is no flowing water to cut out soluble rock in the underlying strata. What’s left, but gas pockets and climate change?

Gas pocket, maybe, since the area is rich in natural gas deposits. One possible explanation, related to natural gas pockets, would be that the gas formed a bubble underground between impermeable layers of rock, growing and pushing up the surface of the ground. Ignition, apparently, wasn’t involved, however, since there appears to be no thermal damage to the rock or surrounding area. Somewhat closely related would be pingo collapse, as ice trapped under the surface of the ground melts (thank you, climate change) leaving empty space, a pingo. Eventually, the roof of the pingo can no longer support itself, and what’s left is a hole. Gas trapped in the ice could also explain the upthrust of material around the hole. Could climate change explain why the ice is melting in an area otherwise known for permafrost?

Image © Siberian Times

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