A Dramatic 260 Foot Crater Has Mysteriously Appeared In Siberia

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A Dramatic 260 Foot Crater Has Mysteriously Appeared In Siberia

7/16/14 3:32pm

Russian geologists are on their way to a remote region of Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula to investigate the mysterious appearance of what looks like a gigantic Sarlac Pit. Opinions are divided as to what caused the apparent crater.

As the Siberian Times is reporting, the unexplained hole was spotted by a helicopter flying over the gas-rich region of the Yamal peninsula, a location that translates to the “end of the world.” Initial estimates place the width of the puncture at about 80 meters, but its depth is not known. A debris field around the perimeter suggests that the material was somehow thrown out of the crater.

An expedition to the crater has been organised by the Yamal authorities. The team includes two experts from the Centre for the Study of the Arctic and one from Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They’re expected to arrive at the scene later today, at which time they’ll take samples of soil, air, and water.

According to the Siberian Times, initial reports and images were suspected to be fakes, but the new images taken by Russian engineer Konstantin Nikolaev suggests it’s very much real. The feature is thought to have formed about two years ago.

Scientist have posited a number of theories to explain the crater, though it’s not likely to have been caused by a meteorite impact, nor does it exhibit the features of a sinkhole. One website claims that it’s evidence “of the arrival of a UFO craft” to Earth. But there are at least two other — and far more plausible — explanations worth considering.

A Pingo

University of New South Wales polar scientist Chris Fogwill says it’s probably a geological phenomenon known as a collapsed pingo, or hydrolaccolith. As theSydney Morning Herald reports, a pingo is a block of ice that’s grown into a small hill in the frozen arctic ground:

The ice can eventually push through the earth and when it melts away it leaves an exposed crater. Dr Fogwill says the permafrost [frozen earth] can be hundreds of metres thick, allowing for large ice features.

“It’s just a remarkable land form.

“This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there,” Dr Fogwill said.

Fogwill says that global warming may cause more pingos in the future.

An Ignited Mixture

Another explanation has been posited by Anna Kurchatova from Russia’s Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center. She believes the crater was formed by a water, salt, and gas mixture that ignited an underground explosion, also the result of global warming.

Kurchatova thinks that enough gas accumulated in ice mixed with sand beneath the surface, and that this was mixed with salt. And indeed, this area was immersed under the sea some 10,000 years ago. The change in climate caused an “alarming” melt in the permafrost, releasing gas akin to the popping of a champagne bottle cork.

Given that this region contains many gas pipelines, that’s a troubling conclusion.

Read more at the Siberian Times and the Sydney Morning Herald.

All images: Konstantin Nikolaev via Siberian Times

Follow me on Twitter: @dvorsky

Why Did This Russian River Suddenly Turn Blood Red?

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Why Did This Russian River Suddenly Turn Blood Red?

9/07/16 3:55pm

Norilsk River, yesterday (Images: left: slipakolga / Instagram; top right:basalyga_katerina_nl / Instagram; bottom right: berezowskyvova / Instagram )

A river near an industrial town in Russia has turned suddenly blood-red. But it’s not an omen of something mystical wrong in the cosmos. Rather, the source of the problem is probably a leaky factory upstream.

Several photos of the river’s blood-red hue were captured on Instagram by residents aound Norilsk, Russia yesterday. Although the precise cause of the change isn’t yet confirmed, The Siberian Times reports that it’s happened a number of times before, and that pollution from a nickel factory on the river is believed to be the cause.

Norilsk Nickel, the company that owns the factory, so far denies that a leak in its plant is responsible for leaching color into the river. But Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology said in a statement that it does believe a leaking slurry pipeline in the factory is the source and has ordered an investigation.

This Bouncy Siberian Soil Is a Troubling Sign For Our Planet

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This Bouncy Siberian Soil Is a Troubling Sign For Our Planet

7/21/16 11:27am

Gif: YouTube/Siberian Times

Siberia, land of frozen lion cubs and inexplicable craters, is in the news againthis week thanks to yet another wacky natural phenomenon. Is the groundsupposed to bounce like that? Not really, but there’s a likely explanation: lots and lots of gas.

This extraordinary sight was witnessed by a group of research scientists working on the remote Belyy Island off Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula. According to the Siberian Times, when the researchers punctured the ground, methane and carbon dioxide were released, suggesting that a buildup of gases in the soil is at least partially responsible for its moon bounce-like quality.

This isn’t all that crazy if you know a little about tundra biology. Siberia is home to thick permafrost soils, which contain water-saturated organic matter built up over tens of thousands of years. A big concern, both here and elsewhere in the Arctic, is that as the Earth warms and these soils thaw out, microbes will start going to town on all that free food, releasing enormous amounts of carbon into the air. And when oxygen concentrations are low—as is often the case in waterlogged permafrost soils—decomposition of organic matter produces methane.

Methane, by the way, has about 84 times the global warming potential of CO2 over the short term, so we’d really prefer to keep it in the ground.

Researcher Alexander Sokolov told the Siberian Times that it’s been an unusually hot summer on this remote island, which isn’t too surprising in the context of the global heat wave we’ve been all enjoying for 14 record-smashing months. Could gassy, decomposing permafrost soils be a harbinger of our future? It wouldn’t be the first warning sign the Arctic has given us this year.

[Siberian Times h/t Motherboard]

Maddie is a staff writer at Gizmodo

Thousands of Giant Snowballs Suddenly Appear on Siberian Beach

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Thousands of Giant Snowballs Suddenly Appear on Siberian Beach

Monday 12:15pm

Image: Sergey Bychenkov/Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute

Incredible photographs from a beach in Nyda, Siberia, show thousands of naturally formed snowballs spread across an 11 mile stretch of coast. This is now officially the best place in the world to have a snowball fight.

The giant snowballs began to appear on the beach about a week and a half ago. Locals in the village of Nyda, which is situated on the Yamal Peninsula just above the Arctic circle, have never seen anything quite like it. The balls of ice and snow range in size from just a few inches across to almost three feet wide—and they number in the thousands.



The snowballs look as if they were meticulously crafted by hand and then strategically placed across the beach, but they formed through natural processes. As Sergei Lisenkov from Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute explained in the Siberian Times, they’re caused by a rare environmental process in which small pieces of ice form and are rolled by the wind and water:

When the water in the gulf rose, it came into contact with the frost. The beach began to be covered with ice. Then the water began to slowly retreat, and the ice remained. Its pieces were rolling over in the wet sand, and turned into these balls.

It is a rare natural phenomenon. As a rule, grease ice forms first, slush. And then a combination of the action of the wind, the outlines of the coastline, and the temperature, may lead to the formation of such balls.

Image: Valery Togo/YouTube/Storyful

Though exceptionally rare, this sort of this has been seen before, including in 2014 when balls like these appeared on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

[Siberian Times]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Watching the Clouds Move on Titan Is Freaky as Hell

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Watching the Clouds Move on Titan Is Freaky as Hell

Monday 5:45pm

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Watching clouds float by is usually a serene, relaxing experience. Watching methane clouds float by on Saturn’s moon Titan, however, is not.

NASA recently released a new video captured by Cassini, a spacecraft currently making its way around the Saturnian system. The footage—which is set to some pretty dramatic music—shows the methane clouds developing, moving, and disappearing over an 11-hour span. It’s not terrifying, exactly, but it is a little strange to watch.

NASA elaborated on the action in a press release:

Most prominent are long cloud streaks that lie between 49 and 55 degrees north latitude. While the general region of cloud activity is persistent over the course of the observation, individual streaks appear to develop then fade. These clouds are measured to move at a speed of about 14 to 22 miles per hour (7 to 10 meters per second).

The release also notes that our models of Titan’s climate have been a little off—they predicted more cloud activity than what has actually been recorded—which suggests “the current understanding of the giant moon’s changing seasons is incomplete.”

Cassini is expected to chug along until next September, at which point it will—I hope—float on toward the raging dead spacecraft party in the great beyond.


Sophie is a staff writer at Gizmodo.

8 Galaxies With Unusual Names

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8 Galaxies With Unusual Names