Giant Siberian 'Gateway To Hell' Won't Stop Growing And Scientists Are Concerned

By maks in News On 8th June 2024

A so-called 'Gateway to Hell' in Siberia is raising alarms due to its rapid and alarming expansion.

Officially known as the Batagay megaslump, this enormous crater is currently known as the largest of its kind in the world. 

First identified in 1991 through satellite images, this dramatic geological occurrence took shape after a large section of a hillside collapsed in the Yana Uplands of northern Yakutia, Russia. 

Believed to have begun forming back in the 1960s, the crater initially took on a tadpole-like shape.

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Since then, the Batagay megaslump has morphed significantly, mainly because it has continued to grow larger each year.

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A study released in May of this year reported that the crater is expanding at a phenomenal rate, increasing by approximately 35 million cubic feet (close to one million cubic meters) annually.

To give a clearer picture of its size, as of 2023, the 'Gateway to Hell' stretched to an impressive width of 3,250 feet (990 meters), as reported by Live Science.

This is a substantial increase compared to its width in 2014, when it measured only 2,600 feet (790 meters) across.

The origins and continual growth of this massive crater can be attributed primarily to climate change effects.

The Batagay crater is located in northern Yakutia, Russia NASA Earth Observatory

The increase in global temperatures is causing the permafrost to thaw.

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Permafrost is a layer of permanently frozen soil and rock that constitutes a significant part of the Arctic's geological foundation, especially in places like Siberia.

This thawing process, driven by the warming of the globe, causes the earth to become unstable and slump, leading to the formation of such megaslumps.

The implications of permafrost melting are severe and multifaceted.

Not only does this phenomenon lead to more land collapsing, but it also results in the release of significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Research Institute Of Applied Ecology Of The North

According to the recent study, "About 4000 to 5000 tons of previously permafrost-locked organic carbon is released every year."

Considering that permafrost constitutes about 65 percent of Russia's landmass, the accelerated thawing poses particularly problematic challenges for this region.

With the ongoing trend of global warming, which shows no signs of slowing down, scientists predict the formation and further deterioration of more craters akin to the Batagay megaslump.

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The Batagaika Crater, located in the Chersky Range of northeastern Siberia, Russia, is the largest permafrost crater in the world. One kilometer (0.6 miles) long, 100 meters (328 feet) deep, and growing, it has been sinking due to thawing permafrost since the 1960s. Batagaika’s rim is extremely unstable and the site of regular landslides, retreating by as much as 30 meters (98 feet) in a single year. 67.580000°, 134.771400° Source imagery: Maxar

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Professor Julian Murton, a geologist at the University of Sussex, shared his insights with The Independent, highlighting the future implications of these developments:

"As the climate warms – I think there's no shadow of a doubt it will warm – we will get increasing thaw of the permafrost and increasingly development of these 'thermokarst' features.

"There will be more slumps and more gullying, more erosion of the land surface." 

Professor Murton further noted that the Batagay crater serves as a crucial indicator, providing insights into past environmental changes and what might likely occur in the future.

About 65% of the Russian territory is underlain by permafrost imageBROKER/Florian Bachmeier

He emphasized that the Batagay crater will 'provide a view to what has happened in the past and what is likely to happen in the future'.