A new theory has successfully explained the phenomenon of the emergence of ‘hell holes’ in Russia that is contributing to global warmth. The answer lies in the Siberian landscape and the ‘Champagne effect’ theory.
There are unique craters on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas in northern Russia, as well as in other locations in the Arctic region.
Researchers have proposed various theories to explain the phenomenon of their appearance but have not adequately addressed the reasons for the existence of these ‘hell holes’.
In a preprint paper published in the Earth ArXiv database, researchers revealed that the key to this puzzle lies in the natural landscape.
However, the model of ancient lakes fails to explain the fact that “giant escape craters” (GECs) are found in various geological settings across the peninsula, not all of which were ever covered by lakes, according to the yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study.
Previous research also linked these craters to the accumulation of natural gas within ice layers, but this cannot explain why these holes are only found in northern Russia.
“Thus, the formation of GECs indicates specific conditions for the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas,” the researchers wrote in the preprint paper.
Quoting Space, the ice layer on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas varies in thickness from tens to hundreds of meters. The land may have frozen more than 40,000 years ago, trapping ancient sea sediment rich in methane.
This methane gradually turns into a vast natural gas reservoir, generating heat and melting the underlying ice layer, leaving gas pockets at the bottom.
Permafrost in Russia and other countries is also seeking the surface due to climate change. In locations with thin ice layers, such as the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, the thawing and pressure from gas cause the remaining ice layer to collapse, triggering explosions.
The ‘Champagne effect’ explains the presence of small mounds around the giant craters because large chunks of ice are thrown out due to the explosions.
According to researchers, the release of natural gas and methane during these explosions could activate a climate feedback loop if global temperatures continue to rise.
“The formation of GECs (giant escape craters) has been linked to global climate change, with increased temperatures in summer and fall resulting in the warming and degradation of ice layers,” the researchers wrote.
The authors estimate that 1,900 billion tons (1,700 billion metric tons) of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, are stored in the Arctic ice layers. The increasing emissions from melting ice layers are a “major concern.”