There's serious danger from a flatulent Earth

Renee Watson

Renee Watson

First published in Columns Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , (It's Not) Rocket Science

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.

Why war makes us want to shop

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Rebecca Moore ponders on what the Christmas ads have to do with the stores they represent

Once upon a storytime

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sarah Mayhew Craddock is a mum about town

Us new mums are just doing our best

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sarah Mayhew Craddock is a mum about town

Oxford unites as the lights go on

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sarah Mayhew Craddock gets all set for the start of the Christmas Light Festival

Trials of the toffs and tribulations of jungle newbies

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

"Britain does seem to have the Monopoly on bonkers blue-bloods" writes Liz Nicholls

Mr Bunny's too close to home

Oxford Mail: Sheena Patterson

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Sheena Patterson of Oxford Garden Design has fluffy nuisance neighbours

The festive countdown starts here

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Jaine Blackman takes a look at some of the interesting advent calendars on the market this year

Toys to snap up this Christmas

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Jaine Blackman asks which toys parents should snap up now to avoid disappointed faces this Christmas

Eat your way to a fit, strong and healthy body

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

Keeping Fit with Lisa Cuerden

Get out your hankies to fight flu bug

Oxford Mail: Renee Watson

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

"As with all viruses, unfortunately antibiotics will be completely ineffective" writes Renee Watson

Women are minding their own businesses

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

"Most importantly if you believe you can do it, go for it" writes Gill Oliver

Enjoy the quiet side of Ibiza in winter

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Friday 21st November 2014

During peak season, prices can be astronomical in Ibiza. But once the crowds have gone home, hotel rates drop and the Spanish island is at its best, says Sarah Marshall

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree