The idea of the ground opening and swallowing us up is the stuff of Hollywood and nightmares right? Well, if you lived in Siberia then you might be thinking again.
Early in July an enormous crater seemed to appear out of nowhere in the Siberian wilderness. Spanning 262ft and so deep that researchers haven’t been able to reach the bottom yet, the crater turned out to be the first of three that opened up over the past month.
As you might expect an unusual event like this attracts claims of alien invasions, devils emerging from the bowels of hell and similar, less than rational, explanations.
So naturally I turned to science to try to uncover some kind of logical reason only to find that the answer seems to be that the earth farted.
Yes, you read correctly, a huge discharge of methane gas, trapped down there for centuries has escaped. What a release.
However scientists think that this planetary parp is seriously bad news for our planet. That in fact it is a clear sign of climate change.
Anyone who has been to, or flown over, Siberia will know that it is one cold place. Huge portions of land are made up of frozen earth and ice, which, because they have been that way for more than two years, is called Permafrost.
The Siberian Permafrost is thought to be a lot older than that – at least 30,000 years older – and it is pretty important.
Permafrost is thought to trap more carbon-based gases than we humans have emitted during our whole existence.
If all that carbon gets out into our atmosphere it will undoubtedly accelerate global warming.
Scientists are trying to predict the consequences of that kind of acceleration and it doesn’t look pretty.
It is thought that two years of unusually warm weather is the cause of the earth defrosting for the first time since the dinosaurs and concerns about the fall out from this aren’t just environmental – a giant virus was recently discovered in thawed Siberian permafrost.
The virus can’t infect humans but when it was put with its favourite host – amoeba – it quickly set to work infecting them.
This Pithovirus was a new discovery and proved that a virus that hung out with mammoths is capable of surviving in that environment for that long. Couple that impressive and slightly scary ability with the fact that Permafrost is preserving huge quantities of bacteria and virus and you have a microbiologists dream – millions of new, undiscovered infectious micro-beasts just waiting to be named after you!
The new Siberian craters are unstable. The scientists working on them report hearing tumbling earth and running water inside the gaping holes. At present we have no idea where new holes might appear as we don’t know where the biggest parcels of trapped methane lie. What is clear, is that the slightest change in global temperatures, as little as 1.5 degrees C, is causing the earth serious indigestion. And a flatulent earth is not funny.
- Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.
10:00am Thursday 2nd July 2015
Esther Beadle revisits a city reinventing itself as a cultural powerhouse on Scotland’s stunning east coast
10:00am Thursday 25th June 2015
Marc Evans and family returned to Cornwall for a long weekend of surfing, fish and chips and architecture
11:00am Thursday 18th June 2015
You can ‘Notts’ be serious! Peter Truman enjoys the cream of world tennis in the heart of the East Midlands
4:31pm Thursday 11th June 2015
Katherine Macalister gets a bird’s-eye view of the capital from the grand four-star Lancaster London hotel
11:00am Thursday 4th June 2015
Marc Evans enjoys a taste of East London chic, and a formidable late breakfast, at the Andaz Liverpool Street
2:04pm Thursday 28th May 2015
TIM HUGHES takes to two wheels – and a cable – to enjoy the dizzying heights of Morzine and Châtel in France’s Portes du Soleil
12:00pm Thursday 21st May 2015
Katherine MacAlister discovers ultimate understated luxury in Turkey’s Barbaros Bay
1:57pm Thursday 14th May 2015
Lucy Ford learns that there is much more to Jersey than TV detective Jim Bergerac
3:02pm Thursday 30th April 2015
There is much more to Antwerp than frites and fat ladies, finds Carol Wright
4:01pm Thursday 23rd April 2015
Jonathan Broadley likes ham so much he took a foodie tour of Spain to sample it
4:23pm Thursday 16th April 2015
Tim Hughes experiences the delights of traditional Austrian hospitality in Vor Arlberg