Northern Russia is the site of the startling discovery of many large craters, thanks to satellite imaging. Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, found these geological formations and has called for an immediate investigation, citing serious safety issues.
“We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,” said the professor. “Five are directly on the Yamal Peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous District, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr Peninsula. We have exact locations for only four of them. The other three were spotted by reindeer herders. But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them.”
Until now, only a few craters were known to exist in the area. Scientists have speculated as to their origins, possibly the result of massive releases of gas hydrates from fault lines in the earth’s surface.
Professor Bogoyavlensky and his colleagues are concerned that the craters could emit dangerous gasses at any time. “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.”
Professor Bogoyavlensky explained to the The Siberian Times why the craters were originally hard to identify, “Studying the satellite images…some craters appeared, then more. Then, I suppose that the craters filled with water and turned to several lakes, then merged into one large lake, 50 by 100 meters in diameter.”
He added, “After studying this object I am pretty sure that there was a series of gas emissions over an extended period of time. Sadly, we do not know when exactly these emissions occur, i.e. mostly in summer, or in winter too. We see only the results of this emissions.”
Researchers are now studying the new formations and the phenomenon of their apparently recent appearance. Older satellite images do not show any evidence of a lake or craters.
Professor Bogoyavlensky is not concerned about the craters themselves but the gasses being emitted that they seem to point to. “This haze that you see on the surface shows that gas seeps that go from the bottom of the lake to the surface. We call this process ‘degassing.’ We do not know, if there was a crater previously and then turned to lake, or the lake formed during some other process. More important is that the gases from within are actively seeping through this lake.”
Until now, no scientists have visited the remote site to conduct studies; research has been limited to the laboratory.
“No one knows what is happening in these craters at the moment. We plan a new expedition. Also we want to put not less than four seismic stations in Yamal district, so they can fix small earthquakes, that occur when the crater appears,” announced the professor.
The danger of potential gas emissions threatens the Russian gas industry, which has many drilling sites, rigs and gas fields in the region.
“Years of experience has shown that gas emissions can cause serious damage to drilling rigs, oil and gas fields and offshore pipelines,” he said.