Helicopters flying in northern Russia recently spotted a giant hole in the Yamal peninsula—a part of Siberia called “the end of the world”—and speculation over what caused it made scientists and conspiracy theorists go wild for a few days with various theories which included meteors, UFOs, underground cities, and even the “hollow earth” theory.
Aerial video footage shows debris and apparent signs of an explosion or impact around a massive crater.
A team of geologists was set to investigate, and most experts are certain that the mysterious hole is actually the result of a tundra phenomenon called a “pingo.”
Because the closest I have ever been to the tundra is southern Canada, I was unfamiliar with the term. But a pingo forms when a mass of ice embedded in the earth starts to get pushed towards the surface by rising ground water. This rising water level is caused by warming temperatures, especially in the Arctic where permafrost in the ground is beginning to melt. Once the ice mass reaches the surface, it can violently rupture from the Earth, creating a ring of disturbed soil that resembles a crater. When the mass finally melts, all that remains is a damp and very deep hole.
This pingo theory was confirmed by experts last week after investigating the hole for themselves. Investigators found a flowing lake of ice water at the bottom of the hole, which is more than 260 feet across and about 230 feet deep.
“For now we can say for sure that under the influence of internal processes there was an ejection in the permafrost,” said Andrey Plekhanov, senior researcher on site. “I want to stress that it was not an explosion, but an ejection, so there was no heat released as it happened.”
The past two summers were unusually hot for Yamal, leading to increased permafrost melt, he added.
“Such kind of processes were taking place about 8,000 years ago. Perhaps they are repeating nowadays. If this theory is confirmed, we can say that we have witnessed a unique natural process that formed the unusual landscape of Yamal peninsula,” he said.
This is probably how the lakes in the region were formed.
Global warming may cause more pingos as the permafrost and other arctic ice formations melt. Because of global warming, there is much more activity in permafrost areas than has been seen in the historical past. Arctic areas are experiencing some of the highest rates of warming on Earth.
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