Massive methane blast blows hole in tundra
Friday, July 7, 2017, 12:47 PM - The story of a methane blast on the Russian tundra has some worrying implications for climate change.
The latest blast, on the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic, blew a hole some 50 metres deep near a reindeer camp in the countryside, according to the Siberian Times.
The Times reports that flames shot into the sky for "several minutes", blackening the landscape and sending dogs and reindeer fleeing in fright. No injuries have been reported.
This is by no means an uncommon story on the peninsula, according to the Times, which reports several other such craters in the area.
This is becoming more common as climate change continues. The process of global warming, driven in large part by CO2 emissions from human activity, is causing the permafrost to melt further north than before, releasing methane that has been trapped within the frozen soil for millennia.
The Times says there are around 700 sites on the Yamal Peninsula where the ground is "swelling" as the released gas builds up. That's just a small part of the vast and underpopulated Russian Arctic so it may be very difficult to gauge how widespread the issue is.
As for how dangerous this is, there is the immediate risk of a large explosion of that nature to people and infrastructure (as mentioned, the recent blast was uncomfortably close to a reindeer herd and the people who were tending it).
However, the other side of this story is that, as more permafrost melts, more methane is released into the atmosphere. That worries climate scientists, because methane is regarded as a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, meaning it could accelerate global warming.
This is becoming an increasing problem as the globe warms. A 2016 study published in Environmental Research Letters said methane emissions began surging in 2007, and skyrocketed in 2014 and 2015.
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SOURCES: Siberian Times | Phys.org