Worried Researchers Report New Methane Craters in Siberian Permafrost
Dozens of new craters have been discovered in the Siberian permafrost, triggered by methane gas erupting to the surface as the tundra melts.
One particularly large crater has researchers worried because it’s located six miles away from a major natural gas production facility, Tech Times reports. But “the phenomenon is believed to be triggered by climate change,” and satellite images “have revealed that the craters are more widespread than previously thought.”
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Climate scientists point to subsurface methane in Siberia as one of the positive feedbacks that could trigger runaway climate change, as Weather Underground explains in this backgrounder. As the atmosphere warms, melting permafrost releases more methane, a shorter-acting but much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The methane would produce more warming and accelerate permafrost loss.
“Although widespread changes to permafrost usually take centuries, the IPCC estimates that by the mid-21st century, the area of permafrost in the northern hemisphere will decline by 20-35%,” Weather Underground reports. “The United Nations Environmental Programme suggests the depth of thawing could increase by 30-50% by the year 2080.”
Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, said researchers know of seven methane craters, and 20 or 30 more may be out there. “These objects need to be studied, but it is rather dangerous for the researchers,” he said, noting