If you wanted a weird scientific mystery, you couldn’t pick a more aptly named spot. The Yamal Peninsula in Russia is also known as the ‘end of the world’. Fitting, because the mystery behind the holes that are appearing is growing by the day. Reasons behind the first hole range from the scientific to the absurd.
The most likely reason behind the three holes is due to a pingo – a large chunk of ice underground. Once it melts, the earth above it collapses to fill the void. Instant sinkhole. Other theories being tossed about include a meteor strike. Someone would have probably seen this, so don’t count on this.
Another theory should give The History Channel fodder for a special. Aliens. Yeah, I’m not saying it’s aliens, but aliens. It’s absurd, but it’s fun speculation.
Dr. Chris Fogwill of the University of South Wales was the among the first to suggest the holes were the result of a pingo. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he talked about the phenomenon and how it could be the cause. “This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.”
Other theories that have popped up is that the holes are being caused by global warming. Andrei Piekhanov has dismissed the idea of a meteor, but says the global warming angle will have to be looked into. The past two summers in the Yamal regions have been warmer, and it is possible that the unseasonable warm temperatures could be the cause.
Before you break out the global warming hat, he cautions that the holes will have to be studied before a definitive answer can be given. “Could it be linked to the global warming? Well, we have to continue our research to answer that question. Two previous summers – years 2012 and 2013 were relatively hot for Yamal, perhaps this has somehow influenced the formation of the crater. But we have to do our tests and research first and then say it more definitively.”
There is a definite reluctance among scientists to blame climate change for the holes. No one wants to label it unless they’re sure. In the current politicization of climate change, none of the scientists want to be seen as throwing out a label unless they have concrete proof.
For now, the additional holes give scientists more information to work off of. If it is the result of melting ice or permafrost, expect clamoring for it to be blamed on climate change to grow. Regardless if it is the result of climate change or not, the melting aspect can be directly attributed to the past two abnormally warm seasons in the Yamal area.
Then the question will be, who is the first to blame climate change for the ever growing number of sinkholes in Russia.