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Massive Siberian sinkhole could have been caused by methane explosion

14 November 2014

Russian investigators are currently investigating a hole in the ground on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia that is 60 metres across and 70 metres deep, with an icy lake at the bottom. It was spotted from a helicopter earlier this year, and a spokesman from the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Yamal branch said it was not the result of a meteorite, but he could not at this stage provide any other definite cause.

Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences are collecting soil, air and water samples around the hole, which has soil and rocks falling off the rim into the depths and could be an indication the geological feature is very recent.

Anna Kurchatova, from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre, told the Siberian Times global warming could be a cause. She believes the hole was formed by a mixture of water, salt and gas, igniting an underground explosion.

The gas had accumulated in ice mixed with sand beneath the surface of what was a sea 10,000 years ago, and ignited when the permafrost melted “like popping a champagne bottle”, she claimed. If her analysis is correct, another explosion could have worrying implications for the many underground gas pipelines running through the region.

It is situated around 1,800 miles east of Moscow in a barren permafrost stretch of Yamal, an area that is key to Russia's oil and gas production. It holds some of Russia’s largest gas reserves and the crater appeared less than 30 kilometres from the biggest gas field in the region, Bovanenkovo.

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