Scientists in Siberia report four new giant craters have appeared in the Yamal Peninsula and one of them was discovered shortly after local residents reported seeing a giant flash of light. Two of the craters quickly filled with water and are now lakes. One is surrounded by up to 20 mini-craters and many more smaller holes are opening up in the same area with no warnings, no general agreement on causes and no known ways to predict them. Is it time to panic? Or too late?
Three large mysterious craters were discovered last year in northern Russia. At first, speculation on causes ranged from meteors and bombs to eruptions from underground fault lines to aliens and subterranean creatures. Two possible natural causes are tied to global warming. Giant subsurface ice accumulations called pingos may be melting quickly and causing sinkholes. The most worrisome possibility is that underground methane gas is mixing with water, salt and heat to cause explosions. That could explain the flash of light reported before the discovery of one of the new craters at Antipayuta.
The four new giant craters and dozens of small ones have been discovered by locals and reindeer herders and by experts like Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, using satellite images. He’s calling for an “urgent” investigation of the new craters.
We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area … But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them. I would compare this with mushrooms. When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more … We need to answer now the basic questions: what areas, and under what conditions, are the most dangerous?
If you don’t want people to panic, Professor, maybe you shouldn't talk about craters and mushrooms at the same time. Whatever the cause, these giant craters are now forming closer to inhabited communities and mining and refining operations. Is it time to stop, take a deep breath and smell the methane? Or should we be looking for another cause for these mysterious Siberian holes?