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Second Siberian Hole Found – Is Permafrost Losing Its Perma?

As much as I’d like to be doing a story about sandworms – or in this case, ice-worms – or definitive proof of the existence of frosty Hellmouths, the appearance of a second mysterious hole in the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia strengthens the much more mundane musings of scientists that the craters are the result of melting permafrost. While not as exciting as giant worms, UFOs or satanic sinkholes, this explanation may be just as terrifying.

Reindeer herders, members of the Nents who gave the area the name “end of the world,” found the second hole 18 miles from the first. Local lawmaker Mikhail Lapsui told the Moscow Times that it’s much smaller than the first and snow can be seen inside.

Why are scientists pointing to perma-unfrosting? For those in warmer climes, permafrost is defined as permanently frozen soil that has remained at or below 0°C for at least two years. The reason why the pictures we’ve been seeing of the areas around these Siberian holes don’t show ice or even snow is that the permafrost is below an active layer that freezes and thaws seasonally.

The climate change or global warming explanation for the collapsing ground that creates the holes is gaining credence, as Anna Kurchatova from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre explains:

Global warming, causing an ‘alarming’ melt in the under soil ice, released gas causing an effect like the popping of a Champagne bottle cork.

Permafrost is filled with frozen organic matter, which means the gas that’s being released is methane, which can trap up to 20 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A rapid release of methane due to climate change could cause – you guessed it – more climate change. It’s no wonder these gas-spewing craters from the thawing of permafrost are causing alarm around the globe.

Permafrost around the globe.

Permafrost presence around the Arctic Ocean.

If scientists want to get more people excited about this methane release explanation, maybe they should call it sandworm flatulence.

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  • Rich

    It’s frightening, but even more frightening is the fact that so many people either ignore or deny climate change. I think we’ve actually passed the tipping point.

  • Indeed. Now comes the time to ‘cope’ with climate change, while trying to perhaps ameliorate its most radical manifestations.

  • Rich

    Yes, and we are in for a rough ride. There are the beginnings of mass extinctions already. Not totally due to climate change, but also animal exploitation and habitat loss, all due to human activity and population expansion.

  • Climate change is happening whether you believe it or not. It is not man-made and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

  • Matthias Gerhardt

    The time is over to discuss the reduction of energy demand (impossible) or to reduce man-made emmission of CO2 and CH4 by development of carbon-free technologies. We have to invest in developments to remove these gases from the atmosphere.

  • Neo Racer

    s1.) Scientists predicted in 2000 that kids would grow up without snow. It was 14 years ago now when UK climate scientists argued that global warming would make snowfall a “a very rare and exciting event”.

    “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” Dr. David Viner, a scientist with the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia, told the UK Independent in 2000.

    After the wettest winter in 248 years, the UK was hit with snowstorms last week. Last year, the UK’s climate authority predicted that this winter would be drier than usual, with only a 15 percent chance of being wet. They were very wrong.

    2.) It’s been 10 years since scientists predicted the “end of skiing” in Scotland. An article from the UK’s Guardian in 2004 quoted scientists and environmentalists predicting the demise of Scotland’s winter sports industry, including more remarks from Dr. David Viner, who had already predicted the end of snow in Britain.

    “Unfortunately, it’s just getting too hot for the Scottish ski industry,” said Dr. Viner. “It is very vulnerable to climate change; the resorts have always been marginal in terms of snow and, as the rate of climate change increases, it is hard to see a long-term future.”

    “Adam Watson, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, believes the industry has no more than 20 years left,” the Guardian reported.

    Viner and Watson must have been surprised to see the BBC report that Scottish mountains may be their snowiest since 1945.

    3.) The Arctic would be “ice-free” by now. “Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during some of the summer months, could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years,” Gore said in 2008.

    Gore was echoing the predictions made by American scientist Wieslaw Maslowsk in 2007, who said that “you can argue that may be our projection of [an ice-free Arctic by 2013] is already too conservative.”

    But in 2013, Arctic sea ice coverage was up 50 percent from 2012 levels. Data from Europe’s Cryosat spacecraft showed that Arctic sea ice coverage was nearly 2,100 cubic miles by the end of this year’s melting season, up from about 1,400 cubic miles during the same time last year.

    4.) Environmentalists predicted the end of spring snowfall. In March 2013, the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that warmer springs would mean declines in snow cover.

    “Warmer, earlier springs are a clear signal of a changing climate,” the group said. “March temperatures have grown 2.1 degrees (F) hotter, on average, in the United States since reliable record-keeping began in 1880s. Similarly, the first leaves have started appearing on plants several days earlier than they used to across the country.”

    But the record levels of snowfall to hit this year may have caught UCS off guard. On Monday, the U.S. east coast was hit with a massive snowstorm that stretched for 1,300 miles and those in the Baltimore-D.C. area were hit with a 141-year record cold of 4 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday morning.

  • twas brillig

    It is BOTH man made and cyclical, if you think destroying millions of acres of rain forest alone every year has zero impact on our biosphere you are a very foolish mortal. And you can thank primarily GREED, debt and poverty for all the problems we are facing. However, there is a solution and SOULution for everything.

  • R. A.

    If it is both man-made AND a natural cycle(a statement with which I tend to agree), we should be asking, “How much of any change taking place is part of the natural cycle, and how much is a result of the activities of mankind?”
    Due to the low level of understanding regarding the causes for shifts in climate in the past, there is no way of answering this question at the present time. The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that the natural cyclical climate shifts vastly predate the advent of mankind.

    So cyclical cataclysmic climate change is a natural occurrence. It is inevitable, judging from the geological record alone, and the mechanisms which drive it have not yet been clearly identified.
    To me this means any and all attempts to lessen, minimize, or even cease altogether the various impacts the human race has on the biosphere is a null answer, as all that could possibly acomplish would be to give a few more years before it happens anyway.

    So why are all proposed climate policies prohibitory?

    As an analogy, imagine you are a passenger on an automated train. You discover that the train is headed for something, a break in the tracks maybe or an avalanche over the tracks, that will cause it to derail and kill most everyone aboard.
    You have two choices:
    A)You run to the front of the train, find the controls, and hope you can figure them out in time to stop the train before the disaster can happen.
    B)You work your way to the very back of the train, putting as much time and distance between you and the inevitable as possible. You might even survive the wreck. Who knows?

    A is the only answer that makes sense to me. But all climate policies seem to be based on B.

  • R. A.

    …and yet there are many species on this planet that we couldn’t make go extinct no matter how much we try. Rats and mice, for instance. Humans have been killing them whenever possible for thousands of years, and not a dent has been made in the population.
    Species that are so fragile that humans can cause them to go extinct by accident are one step away from extinction by any means. If humans didn’t exist, such species would go extinct in the course of natural climate shift cycles.

    This is not to say I think we shouldn’t make an effort to keep from quickening such extinctions. I just think perspective is important, especially in such emotionally charged topics.