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.

Travel: Finding the hidden charms of Brittany with Siblu

Oxford Mail:

8:20pm Monday 26th January 2015

Jason Collie finds an unexpected idyllic spot in Brittany

I'm full of awe for height of achievement

Oxford Mail: Katherine Rees

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

As an eternal optimist and positive thinker, I never fail to be impressed by feats of human endeavour.

A head for heights on the roof of Europe

Oxford Mail: Freeride: In action above Europe's highest ski resort

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Tim Hughes enjoys some skiing, along with a luxurious visit to Val Thorens in the French Alps

Get yourself ready for the revolution

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Let's face it: the topic of economics is something that’s as mysterious as the moon to most of us.

Be healthier and slim for the long term

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

At this time of year lots of people are going on a new diet and trying a new fitness regime. There are so many to choose from, how do you know which one works and which are short term fixes?

I'd rather keep my eyes on life's road than look inwards

Oxford Mail: Rebecca Moore

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Rebecca Moore on why she's not keen to discover herself any time soon

'I believe that climate change is happening'

Oxford Mail: Climate change could have a huge environmental impact

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Rebecca Moore on why we should all care about climate change

Would-be Valentines to get help finding lurve

Oxford Mail: Happy Couple Enjoying the Party (16530860)

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Jaine Blackman gets some top tips on attraction as an Oxford bar prepares to call in an expert on Flirtology to give singleton customers a lesson in chat-up lines

Triumphant Oxford return for student turned author Samantha Shannon

Oxford Mail: Samantha Shannon

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Jaine Blackman meets best-selling author Samantha Shannon who is heading back to Oxford where she wrote and set her first novel about a dystopian future

Why worms are a friend of the gardener

Oxford Mail: Sheena Patterson

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

My new best friend in the garden is a cheerful little robin who has continued throughout this gloomy month to make me feel loved.

Poppy Royal proves laptops give hope for a better future

Oxford Mail: Long Hanborough 13.01.2015 11:00 Poppy Royal (07783768403), who is raising money to send laptops to young women in Sri Lanka, poses at her house.PictureSales Ref: OX72126Catchline: Laptops For Ladies Poppy RoyalLength: spread Weekend LifePhotographer: Jul

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

After tracking down her birth family in Sri Lanka, Poppy Royal aims to help women fight poverty. Jaine Blackman reports

Caring about the sharing of cars and sofas

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

How about lending your car to a complete stranger, or allowing someone you’ve never met before crash on your sofa while you sleep a few feet away?

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