What is causing the Siberian craters?

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

As many as 20 new mysterious craters have been found in northern Siberia, and scientists are still struggling to explain exactly what is causing this unusual geological phenomenon.

Reports of the craters date back until at least last summer, as an engineer found and filmed a 262 foot crater that had formed in the mountainous area in the Yamal Peninsula region. Scientists that examined the hole said that it was caused by a meteorite, but its origin remained unknown.

Now, The Huffington Post reported that scientists had found four additional holes using satellite technology earlier this week, and that the team responsible for the discovered believed that there may be as many as 30 additional craters in the region. They still do not know the cause.

Going from three to 20

According to the Siberian Times, Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute (part of the Russian Academy of Sciences) is calling for “urgent” investigations into the phenomenon, citing safety concerns associated with the craters.

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Previously, only three large craters had been identified in northern Russia, and speculation about the causes of those holes ranged from atypically warm climatic conditions to a massive release of gas hydrates due to geological fault lines, the newspaper reported.

Two of the newly discovered craters have turned into lakes, the professor said. By analyzing satellite imagery, experts have discovered that the craters are more widespread than previously believed, with one large hole surrounded by up to 20 smaller ones.

“We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,” said Bogoyavlensky. “’We have exact locations for only four of them. The other three were spotted by reindeer herders. But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them.”

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Five of those craters were found directly on the Yamal peninsula, one was discovered in the Yamal Autonomous district, and one was near the Taimyr peninsula, north of the Krasnoyarsk region. Bogoyavlensky predicted that there could be 20-30 more yet to be discovered.

Need further investigation before panicking

The professor told the Siberian Times that he wanted to the craters to be investigated further because of serious safety concerns in those areas. Satellite images showed that near one of the holes were two potentially dangerous objects that could soon lead to gas emissions.

“These objects need to be studied, but it is rather dangerous for the researchers. We know that there can occur a series of gas emissions over an extended period of time, but we do not know exactly when they might happen,” he explained.

“One of the most interesting objects here is the crater that we mark as B2, located 10 kilometers to the south of Bovanenkovo,” added Bogoyavlensky. “On the satellite image you can see that it is one big lake surrounded by more than 20 small craters filled with water. Studying the satellite images we found out that initially there were no craters nor a lake.”

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“I suppose that the craters filled with water and turned to several lakes, then merged into one large lake, 50 by 100 meters in diameter,” he concluded. “This big lake is surrounded by the network of  more than 20 ‘baby’ craters now filled with water and I suppose that new ones could appear last summer or even now. We now counting them and making a catalogue.”


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