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