The oldest permafrost on the planet was found in Siberia. Scientists reported that it originated 650,000 years ago, which is hundreds of thousands of years earlier than Homo sapiens appeared. The find was made in the Batagai megaproval, which was formed by the collapse of a hillside on the Yanskaya Upland in Yakutia. The locals call this site “the gateway to the underworld,” and scientists can rightfully call it “the gateway to the ancient world.” The permafrost has captured changes in the planet’s climate and environment over the past half a million years.
The Batagai Crater contains the oldest permafrost in Siberia. The permafrost includes about 80% ice, which is why the hillside has collapsed. Global warming of the climate led to an increase in the size of the crater, the area of the failure increased to 0.8 square kilometers, making it the largest on the planet. The height of the rock at the top of the collapse is 55 meters.
To determine the age of the permafrost, scientists used three dating methods at once. They used the technology of dating by the isotope chlorine-36, as well as luminescent dating. Unlike conventional radiocarbon dating, these methods are able to determine dates between 500,000 and 1 million years ago. Studies have shown that the age of the oldest available layers of permafrost here is about 650 thousand years. It originated during the largest ice age in the last million years.
Only permafrost found in the Canadian Yukon is considered more ancient. Its age is about 700 thousand years. It must be said that there are not many areas with very old permafrost in Siberia, which makes the current find especially valuable.
Preliminary studies have shown that in the history of this layer there was a period of 200 thousand years, when no new permafrost appeared. True, scientists cannot yet say whether this layer melted or whether permafrost did not form at all during this period of time. The second gap arose 130 thousand years ago, which is quite logical, because science has long known that during this period of time there was interglacial climate warming.
This finding is of great importance to science and the study of climate change on the planet. Permafrost is a kind of repository of information about past climatic changes and the environment. Scientists believe that analyzing this information will help them predict future climate changes more accurately and take appropriate action.