Scientists May Have Cracked Siberian Crater Mystery — News Isn’t Good

"Researchers have long contended that the epicenter of global warming is also farthest from the reach of humanity. It’s in the barren landscapes of the frozen North, where red-cheeked children wear fur, the sun barely rises in the winter and temperatures can plunge dozens of degrees below zero. Such a place is the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, translated as 'the ends of the Earth,' a desolate spit of land where a group called the Nenets live.

By now, you’ve heard of the crater on the Yamal Peninsula. It’s the one that suddenly appeared, yawning nearly 200 feet in diameter, and made several rounds in the global viral media machine. The adjectives most often used to describe it: giant, mysterious, curious. Scientists were subsequently 'baffled.' Locals were 'mystified.' There were whispers that aliens were responsible. Nearby residents peddled theories of 'bright flashes' and 'celestial bodies.'

There’s now a substantiated theory about what created the crater. And the news isn’t so good.

It may be methane gas, released by the thawing of frozen ground. According to a recent Nature article, 'air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane — up to 9.6% — in tests conducted at the site on 16 July, says Andrei Plekhanov, an archaeologist at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia. Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179% methane.' "

Terrence McCoy reports for the Washington Post August 5, 2014.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014