Another Giant Crater Appears on Siberia's Arctic Tundra

Another enormous crater has been found on the Arctic tundra in Siberia. The latest depression, which is 650 feet wide, was found on the Gydan peninsula—a region to the east of the Yamal peninsula, where a 165 foot deep crater was recently discovered.

The latest crater was found by Oleg Shabalin, head of the nearby Gyda village. He reported the find, thinking it may have formed through an explosive release of methane as others like this are known to develop. These funnels of gases are "increasingly common throughout the tundra zone of Russia," he told The Siberian Times.

However, scientists have said this depression, which is about 65 feet deep but filled with sludge, likely formed as a result of warm temperatures, with ice trapped in the permafrost melting and causing the soil to collapse.

Marina Leibman, from the Earth Cryosphere Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the website the formation was a "thermocirque"—a slump that forms through the thawing of ice-rich permafrost.

"We have been studying thermocirques for many years," she was quoted as saying. "They became active in the warm year 2012. They look like huge landslides of semi-circular shape with outcrops of ice. Earlier such thermocirques were observed near the sea, now they are seen deeper on land. They are associated with ice layers and warming."

A more famous example of such a depression is the "gateway to the underworld" crater, as it is known to locals in the eastern Siberian region it is located. This is the biggest permafrost crater in the world, at over 3,200 feet long and 300 feet deep. In July, Science magazine reported the rate of growth at this crater—officially called the Batagay crater—had increased. Before 2016 its expansion rate had been around 32 feet per year, but it is now growing by between 29 and 45 per year.

This increased rate of growth is believed to be due to increasing global temperatures. Warmer summers and milder winters mean ground that has been frozen for thousands of years has started to thaw. In many Arctic regions, this permafrost is rich in ice. When the ice melts, the ground subsides—a geological process known as thermokarst. Experts previously told Newsweek that over the coming years and decades, warmer temperatures will likely lead to the formation of many more craters like this across the Arctic tundra.

Scientists have also predicted that more craters that are formed through the explosive release of methane will appear in the future. These craters—the latest of which was announced at the start of September—form when methane builds up in pockets of unfrozen ground beneath the surface. When enough pressure has built up, a huge explosion is produced, sending ice and soil hundreds of feet from the epicenter.

siberia crater
A crater that formed through an explosive release of methane. Another crater, which formed through the thawing of permafrost, has recently been found on the Gydan peninsula. VASILY BOGOYAVLENSKY/AFP via Getty Images

These craters are also thought to be forming as a result of warming temperatures, with more of these pockets of unfrozen ground developing. However, because many of these craters have only been discovered within the last decade, the link with climate change is still being investigated.

The discovery of the latest craters follows a record-breaking heatwave in Siberia, with temperatures in the Arctic town of Verkhoyansk breaking 100 F. The heatwave has been directly linked with climate change, with one study saying the extreme weather seen was "almost impossible" without it. Siberia has also seen wildfires incinerate an area larger than Greece, with the fires releasing record levels of carbon dioxide in the process.