Newly Discovered Siberian Craters Signify End Times (or Maybe Just Global Warming); Mystery of the Siberian crater deepens: Scientists left baffled after two NEW holes appear in Russia's icy wilderness

clip_image002Guest essay by Don Easterbrook

A crater in northern Siberia, spotted by a passing helicopter, has received worldwide attention and continues to be a top news story. Since then, two more mysterious holes have been discovered elsewhere in the region. Now the new holes, smaller in diameter but similar in shape – are posing a fresh challenge for Russian scientists, according to the The Siberian Times. Theories range from meteorites to an explosion of methane due to global warming.

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Figure 1. Yamal ‘mystery crater.’ (Siberian Times)

Anna Kurchatova of the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre said the crater was formed by a mixture of water, salt, and gas igniting an underground explosion as result of global warming. Kurchatova suggests that global warming may have caused an ‘alarming’ melt in the under-soil ice and released gas, causing an effect like the popping of a champagne bottle cork. ‘The version about melting permafrost due to climate change, causing a release of methane gas, which then forces an eruption is the current favorite, though scientists are reluctant to offer a firm conclusion without more study.’

Scientists with the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of the Earth Cryosphere, which is leading the investigation, suggested that the holes formed when melting permafrost triggered an explosion of methane gas. That theory was bolstered when an icy lake was found at the bottom of the hole. Andrei Plekhanov from Scientific Research Center of the Arctic said the crater appears to be made up of 80 percent ice, which adds to the theory that it was caused by the effects of global warming.

Dr. Plekhanov said: “I’ve never seen anything like this, even though I have been to Yamal many times.”

WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON HERE?

Actually, these craters are not mysterious at all—there are hundreds of them all over the Yamal Peninsula and their origin has been well known for many years.

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Figure 2. Craters of the Yamal Peninsula. The ice cores have completely melted out, leaving lakes. The surrounding ridges are still visible. (Google Earth)

As you can see from the images in Figure 2, there are hundreds of these craters, mostly not as fresh as the recent ones, but showing the same features—a depression surrounded by a ring of raised ground. These are pingos!!

Pingo is an Inuit term for an isolated, dome shaped hill, used to describe large ice-cored mounds found in the permafrost regions of Siberia and various other places in the Arctic. Pingos range in height from a few meters to more than 40 m (130 ft) and from a few meters to 1,000 m (3,300 ft) in diameter. Small pingos typically have rounded tops, but larger ones are commonly broken open at the top where melting of the ice core forms a crater resembling a volcanic cone Where they occur in stratified silt or sand, the beds commonly dip outward from the center, much like those adjacent to an intrusive body. The ice in the core of a pingo is typically massive and of segregation/injection origin. Tension fractures are common at the summit of the mound, but expansion of pingo ice is rare and short-lived. Ice up to 7 m (23 ft) thick has been found in pingos of Sweden. As the ice core melts, a small freshwater lake may occupy the summit crater that forms.

Open system pingos

Open system pingos form where groundwater under artesian pressure beneath thin permafrost forces its way upward and freezes as it approaches the surface where it forms an ice core that heaves the surface upward. Although the initial growth of these types of pingos may occur where ice lenses lie above the water table, their continued growth requires a particular combination of hydrostatic pressure and soil permeability. Thin, discontinuous permafrost and artesian water pressure play important roles in the development of open system pingos. The role of artesian pressure is not to force the overlying sediments upwards but rather to provide a slow, regular supply of groundwater to the growing ice core.

Most open-system pingos are oval or oblong in shape and typically occur as isolated mounds or in small groups developed in either soil or bedrock. Rupturing near their top is common. Concentrations of open-system pingos occur in Siberia, the northern interior of the Yukon, Alaska, Spitsbergen, and Norway.

Closed system pingos

When a lake in a permafrost environment is progressively drained and covered by encroachment of vegetation from the margins, the permafrost table progressively rises to the level of the former lake floor. The rising permafrost table expels pore water ahead of the freezing front, and when the pore water pressure exceeds the overburden strength, upward heaving of the frozen ground occurs as the ice core progressively grows. The size and shape of the resulting pingo typically reflects that of the original body of water.

Closed system pingos vary in height from a few meters to over 60 m (~200 ft) and up to 300 m (~1000 ft) in diameter, ranging from symmetrical conical domes to asymmetric and elongate hills. The top of the pingos are commonly ruptured to form small, star like craters that eventually form shallow-rimmed depressions as the ice core melts.

The mechanism of pingo formation in a closed system starts with a deep, ice-covered lake, surrounded by permafrost. The lake inhibits the development of permafrost beneath it, and the ground remains unfrozen. As the lake is slowly drains or is filled with sediment, at some point the lake ice freezes to the bottom, and the bottom sediments begin to freeze. As the layer of ice and permafrost covers former lake floor, a closed system is set up in the still-unfrozen ground beneath because the permafrost cap prevents the escape of groundwater. As permafrost continues inward growth around the unfrozen core, water pressure increases. Pore water is expelled from the unfrozen sediment by the advancing permafrost, and to relieve the pressure, the surface bulges upward. Eventually, all of the water in the enclosed system groundwater mass becomes frozen and the excess water forms a core of clear ice under the bulge.

Growth rate of pingos:

The birth and growth of a small pingo studied by Mackay (1988) is representative of more than 2,000 closed system pingos of the western Canadian Arctic and Alaska. The pingo appeared on the former floor of a lake that drained suddenly about 1900. Small frost mounds began appearing between 1920 and 1930. The pingo grew steadily until 1976, but the growth rate decreased after that. Mackay also monitored the growth of other small pingos in a lake in the Mackenzie Delta region that drained between 1935 and 1950. The pingos grew rapidly in the initial years, commonly 1.5 m/year (5 ft/yr), then decreased. Mackay suggests that about 15 new pingos per century appear in the Mackenzie Delta region, and only about 50 seem to be actively growing. Similar conclusions have been reached by Russian investigators in Siberia.

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thingadonta

Crop circles?

Dr. Plekhanov said: “I’ve never seen anything like this, even though I have been to Yamal many times.”
Actually, these craters are not mysterious at all—there are hundreds of them all over the Yamal Peninsula and their origin has been well known for many years.

Looks like the good Doctor may be blind. He claims to have been to Yamal “many times” and yet he has never seen anything like this. I bet he thinks the crater is “unprecedented”
Does anyone really wonder why many of us have such low opinions of many “scientists”?

ConfusedPhoton

I think its the heat hiding in the deep sea (Kevin Trenberth the Nobel “Laureate” said so, so it must be true) venting through the crust. It has to travel through the 1,000,000 degrees celsius crust (Al Gore said so, so it must be true!) and superheats creating those big holes.

Apparently the malfeasance of alarmism is making other branches of science stupid.

Just to be clear, I appreciate Don Easterbrook’s excellent essay and thank him for the education. My comment was meant to show that when you blame everything on “global warming” you learn nothing. The very rational explanation of Pingos is something that has been occuring since the onset of the last ice age. Yet now it is man made according to alarmists. Yes, their gods are angry and are making pimples on mother gaia.

Green Sand

“Well there we were, discussing this ‘ole
‘Ole in the ground, so big and sort o’ round
It’s not there now, the ground’s all flat
And beneath it is the bloke in the bowler hat”

HOLE IN THE GROUND
(Ted Dicks / Myles Rudge)
Bernard Cribbins – 1962
http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/h/holeintheground.shtml

Once they find out it’s a pingo, they of course all of a sudden realize that global warming is causing an extreme occurrence of pingos. Don’t believe me? Here’s what University of New South Wales polar scientist Dr Chris Fogwil has to say:

But Dr Fogwill says pingos are a natural occurrence and can be so large they can been seen in satellite imagery in the arctic.
And global warming may mean more pingos in the future.
“We’re seeing much more activity in permafrost areas than we’ve seen in the historical past. A lot of this relates to this high degree of warming around these high arctic areas which are experiencing some of the highest rates of warming on earth,” Dr Fogwill said.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/opinions-divided-over-mysterious-80metre-wide-crater-in-northern-siberia-20140716-ztqvi.html#ixzz398gw83PU

Alan the Brit

Yeah, blind as a a small winged rodent-like creature I expect! As said before, often clients ring me up claiming there house is falling down because it has cracks in it. When I get there, most cases the cracks are old & been there for yonks, they just never noticed them before!!!! Nullius novus sub sollis!

Ah yes, the global warming mind universal force approach:
“These are not the pingo’s you believe they are”.
Haven’t these cagwer’s figured out that people with reasoning skills can’t be manipulated?

jones

If everything warms up isn’t there a risk that the whole world could become a pingo and there would be a great big hole left where mummy earth used to be?
Could be a hazard to traffic.
Or the ramblers association…

mpainter

BINGO!

cba

evidently, those could be graboid holes. AGW must have awakened the critters. Is yamal somewhere near Perfection NV. someone in the media should contact the mann and ask. /sarc

Admad

“It’s Worse Than We Thought” (TM) + “We’re All Going To Die” (TM)

Ebeni

United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 1978, Page 58 “Pingo Scars in Southwestern North Dakota”

ossqss

Sandworms!

jones

Ebeni says:
August 1, 2014 at 5:00 am
United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 1978, Page 58 “Pingo Scars in Southwestern North Dakota”
.
Oh my good Lord no…it’s spreading?….

WJohn

Disorientated Hamas miners.

keithrt49

Not hard to see why this would be a challenge to Russian scientists.

Jason H

I would think that these recent “champagne cork” eruptions, especially of that size, would have shown up on many a seismograph.

Ebeni says:
August 1, 2014 at 5:00 am
Nice one!

Tim

Whatever happened to good old ‘Subsidence’?

Johan says:
August 1, 2014 at 4:35 am
Once they find out it’s a pingo, they of course all of a sudden realize that global warming is causing an extreme occurrence of pingos.

Well, maybe “global warming” has some effect.
But, does the relatively minor, if at all, contribution to that warming by anthropogenic CO2 emissions make any difference?

hunter

Reading so-called scientists claim that well established, historically documented events are the result of global warming raises some deep concerns. It is almost like CO2 obsession leads to a reduction in scientific reasoning and ethical behavior.

urederra

Tim says:
August 1, 2014 at 5:30 am
Whatever happened to good old ‘Subsidence’?

The rim around the hole discards subsidence, that is what I read.

Bill Illis

Even Nature magazine bandwagoned this yesterday. Talk about about a major scientific journal losing any sense of being scientific.
http://www.nature.com/news/mysterious-siberian-crater-attributed-to-methane-1.15649

Unmentionable

Just wait until the hordes of ebola infested zombies start pouring out of them … it’s the end I tell you … snigger and jeer all you want … it won’t matter … they’re coming ang no one can stop it now!
OK … maybe that was a touch pessimistic … it could be a prosaic natural phenomena after all … but don’t act like you weren’t thinking the worst sort of B-Grade the day after scenarios too.

Chris B

Old news. The National Enquirer reported it years ago.

kenw

Tim says:
August 1, 2014 at 5:30 am
Whatever happened to good old ‘Subsidence’?
[Subsidence] is where the land goes DOWN. This would be reverse-subsidence. to coin a term. or Earth-zit.

kenw

^”Subsidence”

Gary

Similar structures were left scattered over the northeast US after the deglaciation 10,000 years ago. We call them kettle hole ponds.

Gin@joltmail.net

http://www.le.ac.uk/gl/ads/SiberianTraps/Introduction.html
[Please explain (1) what is in your numerous links, and (2) why some one should blindly click on the links you provide. .mod]

Gin@joltmail.net
Gin@joltmail.net
Dr. William Crafton

Alien “honey pots”, We will have to put up signs to tell them to cover after they are finished.

beng

Don, you seem to know more about this than the Russian “scientists”.

JimS

Russians invented the pingo first, just so you know.

GregK

Prefer Spingo ,though after a few you feel like you are in a pingo
http://www.spingoales.com

ConTrari

Yamal? That’s where the Tree of Global Warming grows, right? On Hockey Stick Hill?

Nylo

Look for the Silver Surfer, convince him to go against his master, and problem solved…

Don Easterbrook

Bill Illis says:
“Even Nature magazine bandwagoned this yesterday. Talk about about a major scientific journal losing any sense of being scientific.”
http://www.nature.com/news/mysterious-siberian-crater-attributed-to-methane-1.15649
Thanks for calling this to our attention, Bill–I hadn’t seen it yet. Siberian pingos have been known for many decades and a large literature on their formation exists. What does Nature use for peer review these days–any competent geologist could have told them how these craters form. Methane in the crater doesn’t mean anything–most all permafrost is full of it.

michael hart

It looks a bit like where the soup-dragon lives, to me.

The climate’s been shot again. Round up all the usual suspects…again.

Jimbo

Pingo mentioned (not in abstract) from 1942. Google Scholar search snippet.

Ground-ice mounds in tundra
RP Sharp – Geographical Review, 1942 – JSTOR
… which freezes in the opening so formed. Porsild’s4 second type of mound or “pingo”
is larger than the Wolf Creek features but closely analogous in other respects,
including mode of origin. Peat knobs in swamps and bogs and …
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/210383?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104025227881

Stephen Skinner

“Scientists left baffled after two NEW holes appear in Russia’s icy wilderness”
Obviously far too much time spent reading instead of looking. In other words they should get out more often!

Jim Clarke

“Andrei Plekhanov from Scientific Research Center of the Arctic said the crater appears to be made up of 80 percent ice, which adds to the theory that it was caused by the effects of global warming.”
Aside from being a non sequitur (something made of ice is caused be warming?), this statement reminds me of the old joke about how much dirt is in a hole that measures 3 feet wide, 4 feet long and 5 feet deep? Answer: None…its a hole!
So what does it mean when a scientist says that the crater is made up of 80% ice? Does he mean the the crater is in a slab of ice that is hundreds of feet thick, or is the crater in the ground and 80% of the walls are covered with ice? I have no idea!
I very much appreciate Don Easterbrook’s article on pingos, and agree that it is the best explanation so far, but I still have some questions, mainly because this Yamal hole is so deep! Are pingo lakes typically this deep? From the descriptions given, most of them are relatively shallow. If the Yamal hole is an open system pingo created with artesian water pressure, where did the water go? Why is it not filled, at least partially, with water? Is the water table of this area typically hundreds of feet below the surface?
If the round lakes of Yamal are often hundreds of feet deep, then I will consider the case closed, but if they are not, then something else seems to be going on with this one. Any one have any information on the typical depths of pingo lakes or water tables in Yamal?

Dreadnought

If they estimated the age of a large number of these so-called pingo features they would be able to determine whether there is a trend of increasing frequency of their appearance in response to the regional warming they’re bashing on about (obviously, it can’t be attributed to global warming because we haven’t had any for nearly 18 years).
Throwing their hands up in the air and saying that they’re “baffled” and “they’ve never seen anything like it before” seems a bit.., ahem, puzzling, to say the least. I mean, if these pingo’s are all over the place then that is a bit like a skiing instructor being surprised at seeing a mogul “for the first time”. There’s something fishy going on here…

mpainter

The most obvious explanation for Plekhanov’s obtuseness is that Russian scientists are on the grab too and that those who control the purse there are the same as elsewhere- none too well informed about the subject. In other words, Plekhanov is putting one over.

MikeN

Perhaps Russia buried missiles there?

Taphonomic

Gary says:
August 1, 2014 at 5:53 am
“Similar structures were left scattered over the northeast US after the deglaciation 10,000 years ago. We call them kettle hole ponds.”
Kettles form by a different process. As you note it’s a deglaciation process. A block of ice breaks off the retreating glacier and the sediment washing out from the melting glacier fills in around the block. When the block melts, you have a kettle lake.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kettle_(landform)
So they are actually from Holocene global warming/climate change. Any day now a climate scientist will find one and call it “unprecedented” and claim “never seen anything like it”. These guys need to get out more.

FrankK

When describing artesian pressure then the term ‘potentiometric surface’ is a more apt description than ‘water table’.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potentiometric_surface