The planet is exploding from the inside: due to global warming, gas flares up in the bowels of the Earth

The planet is exploding. Scientists have figured out how craters form in permafrost, according to “New time”.

The planet is exploding from within: global warming causes gas to flare up in the bowels of the Earth

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Powerful gas explosions occur on the icy soils of Siberia – it is a climate change-related phenomenon that leaves huge craters across the region's landscape.

Such permafrost gas emissions pose a serious threat to Arctic communities and infrastructure, and their origins have been tried to be understood since the discovery of the first C1 crater in 2014.

A team led by Evgeny Chuvilin, a senior researcher at the Moscow Center for Hydrocarbon Production, proposed a new model of formation that can explain all 20 craters that have been discovered on the Siberian peninsulas Yamal and Gydan. Such a model should help predict where gas might explode next as the frequency of these events increases due to climate change.

“It is pure luck that so far none of the recorded explosions followed by the formation of giant craters did not result in loss of life or damage to infrastructure”, – said Chuvilin.

“Several craters have been found within a few kilometers of commercial and economic sites. A potential explosion hazard exists in a large part of Yamal, where the gas accumulates in the upper permafrost horizons. The accumulation process can last for years, but it can also be quickly activated through changes in the physical and mechanical properties of the upper layers of permafrost, including changes caused by climate warming”, – he added.

Chuvilin and his colleagues based most of their findings on an expedition to explore a new crater called C17, which formed about two months after the explosion on the Siberian Yamal Peninsula in the summer of 2020.

The relative “freshness” of C17, whose depth is more than 30 m, has given new insight into the dangerous interaction that occurs between shallow surface layers distorted by global warming and deeper pockets of gas.

A new study has shown that in the context of gas releases, surface permafrost “caps” are weakening as a result of the thawing process, making them vulnerable to the pressure of methane gas deposits that accumulate deep underground. This degradation of the upper layer of permafrost also accelerates the circulation of the underground “intrafrost” mixture of cold salt water and other materials, further reducing the strength of the “cap” above it.

At some point, the pressure of the gas pools reaches a critical point, causing huge explosions. Given the direct link to climate change, Chuvilin and his colleagues expect these emissions to continue into the future, although they require special permafrost conditions that are especially dangerous for the Yamal and Gydan regions.

“We assume that the release of explosive gas in Yamal and Gydan may continue for some time, given the thawing of permafrost due to climate warming, which creates a favorable environment for the release of explosive gases from the upper layers of permafrost”, – Chuvilin said.

In addition to field and satellite studies, the team plans to drill near craters to better understand the complex changes that occur during permafrost melt.

After all, Chuvilin and his colleagues want to figure out how to identify areas that may be prone to explosions and develop ways to reduce underground pressure through degassing or drilling techniques.

Researchers from the US Geological Survey estimate that the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere contains 793 million kg of mercury. If this permafrost melts, the consequences for humanity can be tragic.

The authors of the work studied core samples (this is a rock sample extracted from a well by means of drilling specially designed for this type of drilling. Often it is a cylindrical column (column) of rock rocks strong enough to remain solid) from Alaskan permafrost. Scientists examined 13 cores from a depth of one to two and a half meters. Samples were taken from 2004 to 2012 at various points in Alaska.

Analysis showed that permafrost contains ten times more mercury than has been obtained over the past 30 years due to human activities.In total, in permafrost areas, according to scientists, there are about 800 kilotons of mercury. This value is more than 2 times the total mercury content in other places, including soil, ocean and atmosphere.

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