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Extraordinary Photos From Inside the Siberian Methane Blowhole

Climate

Remember those mysterious blowholes that appeared last summer in the Siberian tundra? The ones with the high methane content that some observers said signaled Armageddon for the climate, a sign of runaway climate change?

Scientists from the Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration and other scientific institutes descended into the largest of the three craters to take measurements and gather information—and to bring back some amazing photos, taken by the director of Centre of Arctic Exploration Vladimir Pushkarev.

"A mission this week to the newly-formed crater on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia is expected throw fresh light on how this and other such phenomenon were formed," wrote The Siberian Times. "Experts are working on a theory that gas hydrates caused underground explosions in the same way as eruptions under the Atlantic Ocean may have led to the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon."

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

The crater contains a lake with a now-frozen surface and iced walls.

Pushkarev said that the scientists will go back to their institutes to assess the information they gathered.

"They did radiolocation tests at a depth of 200 metres, took probes of ice, ground, gases and air," he said. "Now they all went back to their institutes and labs and will work on the material. The next stage is processing of the gathered information. Then we plan to explore the surrounding area, comparing images from space and even those taken in the 1980s, to understand if there are—or were —some similar objects."

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

Pushkarev said it's too early to draw any conclusions about how or why the craters formed, including whether the exceptionally warm Siberian summers of 2012 and 2013 collapsed the permafrost, creating the craters and releasing the methane gases. The Siberian Times notes that theories that the craters were a manmade hoax, the work of aliens from outer space or created by a meteorite or a stray missile have been discounted.

"I've heard about this Bermuda Triangle idea, but I repeat, our scientists need to work on materials first and only then draw some definite conclusions," said Pushkarev. "At the moment we don't have enough information."

They do have some pretty extraordinary pictures however.

Photo credit: Vladimir Pushkarev/Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration

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