Scientists in northern Russia have discovered four new giant craters of an unknown origin in the Yamal Peninsula.
Moreover, the appearance of one of the craters was preceded by a bright flash of light, which was witnessed by some of the local inhabitants.
In fact, it’s not the first time large craters appear in the Yamal Peninsula. Last year, three of them were found in the area, which led to heated discussions as to what caused these mysterious formations to appear in the ground. Possible explanations varied from aliens to meteors and military tests.
More realistic versions linked the formation of giant craters to global warming. In particular, melting water from massive ground-ice mounds, known as pingos, may be mixing with salt and underground methane gas under high temperatures and cause eruptions.
This could also explain the flashes of light seen by the locals right before the discovery of one of the craters.
What is quite curious, one of the craters, named B2, is surrounded by two dozens of ‘baby’ craters and even a larger number of smaller holes.
Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, compares this phenomenon to the growth of mushrooms.
“When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more,” he told the Siberian Times.
Professor Bogoyavlensky has studied the craters with the help of satellite imagery, which allowed him to compare past images of the area with the present ones. He believes that further investigation is necessary because the phenomenon is more widespread than previously thought.
The expert warns that the appearance of these giant formations may be potentially dangerous for the local population since the craters have a tendency to appear closer and closer to inhabited areas. At the same time, two of the newly-found craters have turned into lakes and are now filled with water.
“These objects need to be studied, but it is rather dangerous for the researchers. We know that there can occur a series of gas emissions over an extended period of time, but we do not know exactly when they might happen,” he warns.
Nevertheless, the causes behind the formation of these mysterious holes are still unclear and may in reality be more complex than underground gas explosions. Further expeditions are planned to research this phenomenon, as the experts predict there will be an increase in the number of new craters in the future.