New pictures of the hole in Yamal – and Pingo was its name-o

A couple of days ago I posted this story about the odd hole in the ground that appeared in Yamal, which was immediately blamed on ‘global warming’ by some fool who hadn’t looked at it closely:

Anna Kurchatova from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre, thinks the crater was formed by a mixture of water, salt and gas igniting an underground explosion, a result of global warming.

The most plausible explanation so far is a collapsed “pingo”, and these new pictures and video from the Siberian Times suggest it probably is. The pictures below from Parks Canada show similar structures in the process of collapse. For those that want to blame the collapse on “global warming” you might also note it is summer in Yamal, and melting ice is a regular and expected occurrence.

Here is what a pingo structure looks like in cross section:


Here is what Parks Canada has to say about them:

Once its ice core is exposed to the sun, the pingo begins to collapse

Collapsing pingo

© Parks Canada / 1988

When a pingo is growing, the ground stretches to accommodate its increasing surface area. The tundra splits apart in places, forming cracks – usually along the length of the pingo, especially near its summit – that may reach down as far as the ice core. If these cracks are large enough, the top of a pingo will resemble a crater. Sometimes water ponds in the crater, and this may begin to melt the ice core. More commonly, uplift of the sides of the pingo creates steep slopes that may become unstable and begin to erode. If the ice is exposed to the sun, the core will begin to melt. As its main support melts away, the pingo collapses.

Collapsed pingo

Collapsed pingo

© Parks Canada

When the ice core has completely melted, all that remains is a doughnut-shaped ring of raised tundra enclosing a small round lake. In warmer regions, such as Ireland and the Netherlands, remnants of collapsed pingos have helped scientists determine that the climate was once cold enough in these areas to support a permafrost environment.



And here is new video and pictures from the Siberian Times:


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

The hole is in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous, some 30 kilometres from the Bovanenkovo gas field. Pictures: Marya Zulinova, press service of the Governor YaNAO

More here:

UPDATE: A look at Google Earth for Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous reveals something like Minnesota’s Land-O-Lakes, but looks a lot like Land-O-Holes. See sat image:



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Pulled up the Yamal Peninsula on google earth the other day after the first reports came out and saw they had those holes and ponds all over the place. Just a natural re-occurring phenomenon.

John Johns

There are several similar features nearby. Wonder how deep they might be.

Greg Goodman

Look at the vegitation right up to the edge and the heavily eroded walls of the crater.
As I said yesterday, this feature is not new. Even without knowing the geology , I would guess that kind of erosion is centuries old.

Ian L. McQueen

I suspect that there is some relationship between these and ice lenses that form under paved roads and cause the surface of the road to lift across the width of the pavement (this is North American usage of “pavement” to refer to the roadway used by motor vehicles; it may have a different meaning in the UK, Australia, etc.). Our country road in eastern Canada has dozens of these, and driving on them in late winter is rough!
Ian M

Definitely aliens.

Greg Goodman

I think there is an error on the origin of the second from last photo ( cribbed from ).
It seems to be very different geology, rock rather than permafrost, and physically too different to be a photo of the same location. That kind of erosion would take centuries.
Still the vegetation around the rim shows that this feature has been building for a long time.
this is a recent _discovery_ not a recent event.


Could this be the crash site of MH370 !? They never did find it and it would be cool to blame the Russians for this one too.
It looks very similar in shape to the hole in the ground in Pennsylvania.

john robertson

When one has no knowledge of the past, or willfully ignores said past;
Then it is always Unprecedented.
Perhaps it is way past time we focussed on the insanity of these credulous twits and just laugh at them.
Where are the modern satirists?
Hashtag; I am a moron?

Chris B



Ian L. McQueen says:
July 18, 2014 at 7:40 am
I suspect that there is some relationship between these and ice lenses that form under paved roads and cause the surface of the road to lift
Yes , there may be some mileage in that idea.
A bit like a glass bottle bursting as it freezes outside: the top forms a bung and then expansion as the lower water expands as it approaches freezing forces outwards. That is presumably the pingo mechanism that produces the characteristic raised ring.
This implies that the surrounding ground is not solid rock ( although there appears to be a lot of rock in it ). Permafrost would yield under the pressure.


plagarizing a bit:
‘Inside every global warming scare is a natural occurance struggling to be grasped.”

MaxedOutMama said:
July 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm
It’s a pingo sinkhole…
We have a winner!

A much better explanation.
Neither salt nor water are ignitable. CH4 ignites between 5%(LEL) and 15% (UEL) in AIR with a source of ignition. You cannot ignite a methane between 5% and 15% volume in air by compression, e.g., the cylinder of a diesel engine unless you have a secondary ignition source such as a “pilot charge” of oil. Below and above the flammable limits it won’t ignite. Her explanation had a few holes in it.

Alan the Brit

Ian L. McQueen says:
July 18, 2014 at 7:40 am
The language is an engineering one, so its meaning is pretty similar here in the UK. Sometimes we just say bitmac or macadam or roadway & at times pavement!
Anyway, isn’t NATURE just blooming marvellous, such fantastic sculpturing of the rock. Looks to me as though it’s been there for a while, certainly beneath the surface if not at the surface! It also looked like the water at the bottom of the hole was fairly shallow as it looked like one could see the rock beneath it, then again may just be me, after all it’s approaching 5pm on a hot sticky Friday afternoon, beer time beckons! HAGWE folks!

David S

Gigantic moles!


I’d never heard of a pingo before, but it sounds like a plausible explanation. And a helluva lot more likely than ‘global warming’, which is a somewhat implausible theory since there hasn’t been any for nearly 18 years.
Hang on, though, maybe Yamal-based pingos have a special 20-year delay feature before they collapse – and so perhaps, this one was merely responding to a slight increase in global temperature from way back in the mid-’90’s.
I mean, they’ve got some fairly special trees over that way too, I hear. Or was it just one?

What I noticed from the latest video posted over at the original article was the clothes the people were wearing. Mid July, northern Hemisphere, and they are dressed like it is November!
Siberia is a cold place!


Nah, it’s a Russian mafia boss’s Sarlac pit.

Eustace Cranch

I agree, that 2nd from last picture is NOT the same crater.
REPLY: I’m sorry, but you are wrong on this claim. You can match up the water etched paths on the rim and walls with the other photos. Just different lighting conditions, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud – Anthony


The reaction to this incident demonstrates that for many Global Warming is not a theory nor an hypothesis, but a superstition. Global Warming is is not the new normal, it’s the new Devil.


Next thing you know this thing will be responsible for slowing down the Gulf Stream.


In southern New England where the freeze-thaw cycle repeats often in the winter, we call these thing potholes.

Russ in TX

Let’s learn from this, and figure out how to use injection wells to dig big caverns for us.


@ Resourceguy –
You know… that theory doesn’t sound entirely implausible. I bet you could get a research grant to study that…

Are you sure that isn’t really a diagram of a sebaceous gland?

I’m trying to find a reference site that shows temperature data for the Yamal Peninsula going back a few decades. Does anyone know where I can find one? Google searches turn up lots of articles from places like The Guardian and other useless alarmism, I’d like to see the raw(ish) data.

Charles Sayles

don’t know what this is about. you figure. I probably don’t care

Keith A. Nonemaker

Yamal was also the home of that freak tree whose rings became the basis for the infamous hockey stick. I wonder if anyone has investigated the possibility that Yamal tree rings respond to nearby pingos. It might help explain the freak tree.

“The researchers were unable to make their way to the bottom of the lake, but did go inside the crater.
‘There is ice inside the crater which gradually thaws under the sun.
‘Also there is melted water flowing down from its sides, you can see water traces on the pictures. The crater is filled with ice by about eighty per cent. ‘
He stressed: ‘We are working with space photographs to figure out exact time of its formation.
‘We have taken soil and ice samples which went straight to laboratories. We can be certain in saying that the crater appeared relatively recently, perhaps a year or two ago; so it is a recent formation, we are not talking about dozen years ago.
‘Could it be linked to the global warming? We have to continue our research to answer this question.
‘Two previous summers – years 2012 and 2013 were relatively hot for Yamal, perhaps this has somehow influenced the formation of the crater.
‘But we have to do our tests and research first and then say it more definitively’.


My expertise on pingos consists of reading what Anthony posted and what is on Wikipedia (I had never heard of them before 20 minutes ago), so maybe my opinion is the result of ignorance, but I don’t think it’s a pingo. The news article describes the hole as being about 30 meters wide and 70 meters deep, and the pictures show a relatively small rim of material on the surface. Based on the brief descriptions and photos of known pingos, I would have expected a more shallow depth to width ratio with more material on the rim. Maybe somebody can find some more information to disprove me.
Also, it appears to me that there is a shallow stream bed leading to the hole, but none leading away from the hole, as though it was acting like a drain.


A “pingo.” That’s actually pretty cool. 🙂

According to the top diagram, this is a spring that freezes solid and deep. One of the pictures shows a creek bed leaving the hole as it’s origin.
Frost heave on a large scale.
I got to thinking that the forces might be similar to a mud volcano.
This is a vertical glacier!
An ice plug forms in the winter, but hydrologic forces cause the plug to rises slowly, scraping and smoothing the walls, as water fills in below to freeze again.
The only fly in the ointment is that currently the water table is very low. At present, the thing is NOT a SPRING. Something changed to lower the water table, perhaps another pingo down slope.


Could it be linked to the global warming? We have to continue our research to answer this question. Two previous summers – years 2012 and 2013 were relatively hot for Yamal, perhaps this has somehow influenced the formation of the crater. Perhaps it reached its tipping point a fraction of a second earlier than it might have done without our carbon-forcing. Although the landscape implies that this kind of event is frequent and mundane, we think this time it might be special. But we have to do our tests and research first and then say it more definitively. Until then, keep worrying.

James Bull

No the planets got zits!
James Bull

Björn from Sweden

So.. how do we know it is not a meteorite crater?
To me it looks like a huge sink-hole.

Spatial distribution of pingos in northern Asia (8 MB)
Fig. 5.Spatial point density of pingo locations using a 20×20 km search window (400 km2) and 5 km grid cell size. Histogram shows pingo distribution by geographical latitude. Black outline in this and subsequent figures indicates the study area boundary
The map covers from 60 E to 170 W across all of Siberia. Pingos are mapped from 61 N to 74 N.
Over 1620 pingos mapped.
Table 4: Pingo Density. Yamal is less than 13 / 100 km^2

The Wikipedia article on “Thermokarst” is a good source for references to other arctic, periglacial, and permafrost landform types and vocabulary.


Pingos are true perennial permafrost mounds. It is generally accepted that there are two main types of pingos in terms of genesis: hydrostatic (closed system) and hydraulic (open system). It is here proposed that a third category of ‘polygenetic’ (or ‘mixed’) pingos should also be recognized in the light of published work and recent investigations. The lack of comprehension of hydraulic pingo genesis would seem to add weight to this proposal. Since suitable conditions for the formation of pure hydrostatic pingos are rarely met outside the Mackenzie Delta/Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula area the ‘world’ type of pingo is most likely to be of an hydraulic or ‘polygenetic’ variety and thus further investigation is warranted, particularly for the elucidation of the palaeoenvironmental inferences of ‘relict pingos’.

Ed Reid

I have been anxiously awaiting Keith Briffa’s new book: “A Tree Grows in Yamal”.
Perhaps he is already working on the sequel: “A Pingo Grows in Yamal”
(sarc off)

Roderic Fabian

Temperature data for Yamal can be found at

“Until then, keep worrying.”
huh. I’m not worried about global warming. not one bit.
I just note people’s lack of skepticism and their rush to judgment about everything remotely related to their cherished beliefs.
good skeptics say.. we need to look more closely, pingo bingo

Chris B

Related… wedge polygons.

Chuck Nolan

Did Kevin check it for his missing heat?
Looks pretty warm inside that hole.


Reminds me of working on top of an old landfill. The gases from all the decaying garbage would build up beneath the surface and during wet weather, there’d be these little mounds of upheaved turf that would develop, some to about a meter in height. They could be popped with a pick or just let be.


GaryB says:
July 18, 2014 at 9:21 am
In southern New England where the freeze-thaw cycle repeats often in the winter, we call these thing potholes.
Frost heaves. Bang!!! Damn!! Trick is to watch for chunks of ice along the side of the road from where the ice has broken off of the wheel wells of the previous victims of the FH.


looks just like the earthworm holes I see in the driveway after a rain storm (bigger of course) I say a giant prehistoric earth worm popped up for a look didn’t like what he seen and went back to sleep ;0)


It appears to be an artesian spring that froze then thawed. So they’re not just for making beer anymore.

Someone should do a macro of Christophe Waltz in Inglorious Basterds saying “That’s a Pingo!”

That looks like a sink-hole. Around here, water underground + limestone = sink-hole as the water contains acids naturally strong enough to dissolve the calcium carbonate (or in the case of dolomite sink-holes, magnesium carbonate). Ah so a major ‘frost-heave’ followed by a collapse when the water flows away does the same thing.


This hole was caused by YAD 061, the ‘warm’ tree that caused Al Gore’s hockey stick. This tree eventually got so hot, it burned a hole through the permafrost.