It’s scary enough when mysterious and sometimes explosive holes appear overnight and grow rapidly and deeply without showing any signs of subsiding. It’s worse when the Earth toys with your fears by bulging and retracting like some monstrous planetary stomach filled with junk food, threatening to spew its contents forth any minute.
This is what Siberians are now dealing with as huge pockets of methane gas set free from their icy jails by climate change are attempting to break through the softening permafrost.
Has a horror movie become reality?
It was like a jelly. We have not come across anything like this before.
That was the observation of one researcher reported by the Siberian Times as he walked across the pulsating tundra on Belyy Island in the Kara Sea off the coast of northern Siberia where at least 15 of these ballooning pockets of methane have been discovered so far. It’s a dangerous place to be. Just scraping the grass and dirt from the top of a bulge caused instruments to measure carbon dioxide levels 20 times above normal and methane gas 200 times higher than average.
How dangerous is it to be on a methane bubble? One researcher shared his experience:
As we took off a layer of grass and soil, a fountain of gas erupted.
Alexander Sokolov, deputy head of ecological R&D station of the Institute of Ecology of Plants and Animals, was leading an expedition of to the remote island of Belyy for an entirely different purpose when team members noticed the ground moving under them. He pointed out that, while average temperatures on Belyy haven’t risen appreciably, that doesn’t rule out climate change as a cause for the bubbles.
It's just like in a famous joke about average temperature in a hospital: some people have fever, some are dead, this number doesn't really make sense.
Belyy Island is north of the Yamal and Taimyr peninsulas of mainland Siberia where giant craters continue to suddenly open and expand in the permafrost. Is the pulsating permafrost in the belly of Belyy a warning that the island will become the next crater-covered “end of the world”? Sokolov plans to continue studying the island and jokes about the danger of accidently stepping on a new bulge.
The only thing could be, if a reindeer stepped on such a bubble, that could be a rather strong sound, and the animal could be afraid of it for several seconds.
Only a true scientist could tell flatulence jokes while studying the dangerous and possibly explosive signs of climate change.