Today’s Jeopardy category is “Portals to Hell.” Remember, your answer must be in the form of a question. For $500, this Gateway to Hell is growing at a frightening rate of 30 meters (98 feet) per year.
Sorry, that wasn’t a question.
“What is the Batagaika crater, located in the ice-covered Chersky Range in northeastern Siberia?”
Correct! It’s summer in Siberia, a season which has actually become more noticeable due to climate change. It means that Siberians are shedding clothing and the ground is shedding permafrost. In some areas, the end result is exploding pingos – ice-and-dirt-covered methane pockets whose heat-induced blasts leave large sinkholes behind. However, the Batagaika crater, about 660 km (410 miles) northeast of the city of Yakutsk, has been around for some time – long enough to grow to 1 km (.652) in length and 100 meters (328 feet) deep, and acquire the name “Gateway to Hell.”
The Batagaika crater began forming in the 1960 when forests near the Batagaika river were cleared and permafrost began melting faster than normal. While paleontologists loved its massive exposure of Ice Age animal fossils, the steep cliffs and landslides make erosion occur even faster and land is dragged into the Gateway to Hell at an accelerated and dangerous pace, threatening everything in its path, including the homes, livestock and scenery of the local Yakutians, who first named this creation of invading resource-stealers the “Gateway to Hell.”
“The catch with Batagai is that although it survived multiple episodes of warming in the past, where the warming has been natural - in the last 50 or 60 years human disturbances have destabilised this ancient permafrost.
"So, I guess the message is that we need to be very careful."
Geology professor Julian Murton of the University of Sussex told the BBC that a mere 60 years of warming has exposed permafrost from 650,000 years ago -- the oldest of its kind in Eurasia and the second oldest in the world. Needless to say, that’s not good.
"Though this may sound so far away from our daily concerns and daily life, actually it's not just curiosity that drives the Batagai research. It's also the applicability of the results to the ongoing environmental changes - because the past is the key to the future. And by understanding the processes that occurred in the past and their aftermath, we can adapt to the ongoing future."
Is it too late to close the Gateway to Hell? Verkhoyansk in northeastern Siberian recorded the Arctic's highest ever temperature this summer -- 100 F (38C) – the temperature of hell to Siberians. Is having wood for your fireplace or end tables worth widening the mouth of hell?
This story continues to appear every summer, and never gets better … only bigger. How long will it be before the Batagaika crater reaches big cities … Moscow … China … India … Europe … beyond? Does humanity stop it with sandbags … or climate change reversal?
Please give your answer in the form of a question.