How tundra responds to warming

Yamal is a region of permafrost, tundra and lakes.

Як тундра реагує на потепління

In October 2013, the helicopter pilots who flew over the Central part of the Yamal Peninsula, published a video of a giant crater in the ground, reports Rus.Media. In a short time the video has received over seven million views, and the world began to puzzle over what it is: meteor craters, some black holes, the entrance to hell, and maybe failure on the site of one of the underground gas storages.

Next summer to investigate the “hole” went on a small expedition under the guidance of doctor of geological-mineralogical Sciences, chief researcher of the Institute of the cryosphere of the Earth Russian Academy of Sciences Marina Leibman. Yamal is a region of permafrost, tundra and lakes. The earth is literally saturated with gas, stochem subsoil and soil bacteria. The place where I found the failure is located a few dozen kilometers South from one of the country’s largest gas condensate fields — Bovanenkovskoye.

Upon arrival, the scientists saw a huge, almost vertical hole with a diameter of 25 meters and a depth of 50 meters. At its edges lay the invasion of rocks that clearly indicated the release from the depths, and not collapse, for example as a result of basement subsidence of the ice.

Як тундра реагує на потепління

The invasion of rocks at the edges of the crater indicate that there was a release from the depths

To examine the crater, outfitted several expeditions. Geologists have described everything in detail, took the drone went down inside with climbing equipment, and Geophysics recorded the exact configuration of the funnel structure and the surrounding soil. Anything like none of the scientists had not previously met. “We have witnessed a spectacular natural phenomenon,” described what he has seen researchers just returned from the expedition, in his first article, published in the journal “the Chill” at the end of 2014.

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Як тундра реагує на потепління

The place where we found the first funnel gas emissions in 2013

Craters in the tundra and on the seabed

Very vaguely reminiscent of the Yamal funnel craters on the bottom of oceans, the origin of which in the scientific community have discussed since the 1970-ies. Russian scientists have proved that the traces of methane emissions, which accumulate in young sediments, closed on all sides, at some point exploded. Although underwater objects much larger than found on the Peninsula of the “hole”, the scientists on set of signs made a similar conclusion about the origin: in the tundra occurred underground burst of gas. This hypothesis they hold to this day.

The assumption that emissions of natural gas during the thawing of permafrost periodically occur in science. Wrote about the “methane bomb” that threatens Siberia, if you melt the Arctic ocean shelf. “The risk of emissions of methane, from my point of view, which is shared by many researchers is adequate, greatly exaggerated,” — said Marina Leibman. Which actually of form will is a phenomenon to imagine, of course, no one could.

Як тундра реагує на потепління

On the left is the hill on the future site of a gas release, on the right funnel. Satellite photos from the presentation of Marina Leibman

Analyzing satellite images for several years, scientists have traced the history of the appearance of the crater. On the images prior to 9 October 2013, and its place was occupied by a hill with a height of five or six meters, November 1, 2013 satellite found a hole in the ground with a size of 16 meters. A year later, it increased to 25 meters. Gradually, the crater filled with water, and now the funnel covers the lake with a width of 85 meters.

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Як тундра реагує на потепління

In place of the funnel in 2016, has already formed a lake

Gas attack

Yamal land to a depth of 130 meters saturated with methane stored in permafrost and layers of pure ice. The gas is securely trapped in the bowels, frozen to minus seven degrees Celsius and not conceal even in the summer. However, over the last decade the climate in the Arctic is considerably warmer. Since 1993 the average annual temperature has risen 1.8 degrees, is warm and the bowels, which began to melt the ice formation and permafrost, the surface became increasingly squander, terrain acquired a highly dissected appearance. Against this background, the abnormally hot summer of 2012 was promoted, as scientists believe, of a gas release.

The researchers suggest that this is due to the decomposition preserved in the permafrost, gas hydrates are crystals of water and gas. Surrounded by permafrost, the methane gas cannot leak out. The pore pressure increases, and at some point, the gas escapes to the surface. This process is, of course, dangerous to those nearby. But the region sparsely populated, and special risks, including man-made, scientists can not see.

Risk areas

Geologists have counted six funnels gas emissions. Five of them were formed in 2013, one in June 2017. And her appearance, as he wrote the Yamal mass media, watched a local resident, passing deer, 30 kilometers from the village of Seyakha river.

Most likely, the gas in the tundra will take place later. How often and where exactly is the big question. Supported by the Russian science Foundation (project No. 16-17-10203) group Marina Leibman developing a methodology that will allow to map high-risk areas on the Yamal Peninsula. But while, according to the researcher, “the location of the mounds, “inflated” with gas, not amenable to unification”.

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