A new giant crater has been found on the Russian Arctic tundra

It's the 17th such crater to be discovered in Yamal since 2014.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - September 8, 2020
Journalists this summer came across a large crater in the tundra on the Yamal Peninsula. (Screenshot from Vesti Yamal via The Independent Barents Observer)

A team of journalists discovered another giant hole in the Russian tundra as they were flying over the area in a helicopter in July.

The site has since been subject to close studies by researchers, regional television channel Vesti Yamal reports.

The hole, more than 20 meters wide, is the 17th of its kind discovered in the far northern Yamal region since 2014. The first discovery was made in 2014. Since then, a number of similar large holes in the ground have been found.

According to researchers, the tundra craters are created as large volumes of gas accumulate under the tundra permafrost and then ultimately explode.

A number of more craters will appear in the near future. Around in the region are numerous small swollen hilltops just waiting to burst.

Researcher Vasily Bogoyavlensky told Vesti Yamal that the explosions happen when pressure in the ground reaches 12 atmospheres. The powerful explosions can throw soil several hundred meters from the epicenter.

The new crater discovered this summer is unusual because of its large proportions and depths, as well as good qualities for study, Bogoyavlensky explains.

It is not known exactly where in the region the latest crater is located, but previous holes of the kind have been found in the vicinity of local oil and gas installations. A crater found in 2014 is situated not far from Bovanenkovo, a large natural gas field that today delivers up to 115 billion cubic meters to European markets.

In 2017, reindeer herders in the area of Seyakh, a village on the eastern coast of the Yamal Peninsula told local authorities that they saw flaring flames and a column of smoke in the distance. A similar crater was subsequently discovered in the area.

The Yamal peninsula has large natural gas resources and is today a top priority region for Russian petroleum companies. Industry representatives now fear that their infrastructure in the region could be damaged by the tundra explosions. Economic and environmental damage in such an event could be substantial.

Gazprom and Novatek are the biggest companies in the region. Over the next years, they both plan to open several new major hydrocarbon projects.

The Yamal tundra explosions are believed to be spurred by the climate change in the Arctic. As the permafrost melts it releases gas hydrates preserved in the ground.