Scientists believe they might have solved the Siberian crater mystery. A research team from the Scientific Center of Arctic Studies journeyed to Siberia where a large crater has showed up. They took air samples from the bottom of the large depression and it was apparently found that the hole was made by methane being released from melting permafrost. If this is so, it could be more bad news for the future of Earth because it means alarmingly high emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas.
The scientists reportedly discovered methane concentrations of nearly 10 percent at the lowest part of the crater. That is 50,000 times the atmospheric average. The likelihood of methane being released by melting permafrost creating the hole had been a favored premise from the time of its discovery in middle July. However there are many other ideas circulating around and researchers have advised all to take care before jumping to any conclusions.
Normal air has only just 0.00018 percent methane in it. Scientists believe that rising summer temperatures in the area softened permafrost inside the ground. As the soil thawed, the methane gas that had been trapped in the permafrost combined underground before erupting to the surface and tearing a hole in the ground. The past two summers on the Yamal peninsula have been warmer than normal and that is where the crater is located.
Andrei Plekhanov, who is the leader of the mission, explained to <em>Nature</em> that the high temperatures probably softened the permafrost to the point where it collapsed and therefore released the methane that had been trapped.
Scientists have reported they had not seen a crater such as this before although two other smaller ones have been reported to the media since the first big one was found. However that does not mean they were formed in that time. It is believed that one formed in Sept. of 2013, even though eyewitness interpretations of what happened differ. It is unknown when the third one appeared.
The researchers believe that by trying to figure out the manner in which the craters form is very important, as it may deliver ways to warn local residents, or the operators of the adjoining Bovanenkovskoye gas field, if a crater is about to show up any place that could be hazardous.
The most solemn question of all is what this means about the discharge of methane from the tundra. That type of gas is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It is usually estimated as being at least 25 times as potent, but the most recent research reports have lifted it to nearly 35 times as strong when measured over a 100 year time span. The prospect of releasing methane has become the most broadcasted of the possible set-ups for runaway global warming even if human emissions were to become controlled. However there are still numerous scientists who question “end of the world” situations.
Dr. Plekhanov is ready to get back to the crater itself in order to measure the amount of methane that has been caught inside the walls. This finding should help to settle the inquiry about what led to the crater’s development and also gain an idea of how much methane is being put out into the air
So scientists believe they might have solved the Siberian crater mystery and that it is believed that methane is most likely responsible for the huge crater that suddenly showed up in Siberia back in July. It is believed that as local temperatures rise, such craters might become more common.
By Kimberly Ruble