An enormous crater spotted near Yamal, northern Siberia, has people scrambling for explanations. Siberia's Zvezda TV recently aired helicopter footage of the giant black hole, which appears to be hundreds of feet wide and according to reports was formed some two years ago. The grainy footage isn't much to go on, and while scientists are en route to study the crater, speculation abounds.
Russia's Emergencies Ministry has ruled out a meteorite strike, though such things have been common in Russia recently. And there are the usual out-there theories of UFOs and the like. But the real cause of the hole may simply be the area's unique geology. One Australian scientist said it looked like a collapsed "pingo," which is a huge chunk of ice that sits under the soil. But Anna Kurchatova, of the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center, has another explanation. The Yamal area (the name is Siberian for "End of the World") is rich in natural gas, and a pocket of this combined with water and salt could have produced quite a large explosion if the permafrost were punctured by climate-change-induced thaw. The research expedition should yield further information.
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First published July 16 2014, 4:54 PM