Giant crater in Siberia: the door to the underworld reveals its secrets

Over the years, as the climate has warmed, Siberian permafrost has begun to show signs of collapse: sudden sinkholes appear and gas bubbles are ejected from under people’s feet.

The largest and most famous of these failures is known to the locals of Yakutia as “the door to the underworld”.

When we reported on this anomaly in 2018, it developed so quickly that it exposed buried forests, corpses and up to 200,000 years of historical climate records.

Now a drone, has descended into the crater and allowed us to see for ourselves the enormous scale of this phenomenon. You can watch the video below.

This crater is called Batagaysky crater and officially belongs to the “megaslump” or “thermokarst” type.

Many such megaslumps have appeared in Siberia in recent years, but researchers believe that Batagaysky, due to its size, may be something of an anomaly for this area, located about 660 kilometers (410 miles) northeast of the region’s capital, Yakutsk.

The crater is about 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) long and 100 meters (328 feet) deep, but research presented in 2016 shows that its size is increasing by an average of 10 meters per year.

The ground began to fail in the 1960s after the surrounding forest was cut down and permafrost began to thaw.

Now the crater continues to grow as the material at the bottom melts and more of the subject permafrost comes to the surface.

“The crater will probably swallow the entire hillside before it slows down,” says geographer Mary Edwards of the University of Southampton, quoted in a 2016 NASA’s Earth Observatory paper.

“Every year, as soon as the temperature rises above freezing, it starts again. Once you’ve exposed something like this, it’s very hard to stop it.”

The region’s volatility is not just a danger to local residents. There are also fears that as the depth and size of the crater increases, thousands of years’ worth of carbon stores will be exposed.

In addition, ancient viruses frozen for eons have recently been revived in Siberia.

But not all the news is bad. A study published in February 2017 in the journal Quaternary Research found that layers exposed by the crater could reveal 200,000 years of climate data.

This is added to preserved remains of buried forests, ancient pollen samples and even frozen remains of deer, mammoth and horse dating back 4,400 years.

Hopefully, being able to better understand climate change in our planet’s past will help us better prepare for what the future holds.

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