A mysterious Siberian crater is expanding, and in this process, it is uncovering buried fossilized forests, extinct animals, and up to 200,000 years of historical climate records.
Locals call it the “Doorway to the Underworld.” Technically known as the Batagaika Crater, it is almost 1 km (0.6 miles) long and 86 m (282 feet) deep, and is getting bigger every day.
Batagaika Crater has been growing since the 1960s, and the growth rate is continuously increasing. This crater was formed due to climate change and the rapid removal of forests. The absence of trees has resulted in the absence of shade during the summer months. As the sun rays warmed the land, it began to sink due to the melting permafrost. Moreover, flooding also made the melting worse and contributed to the enlargement of the crater.
The resulted instability of the region is not the only concern, but it will also result in releasing stored carbon that was locked away for thousands of years. With the melting of the crater, greenhouse gasses will be released into the atmosphere, and this will trigger more warming.
Frank Günther from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany said, “Global estimations of carbon stored in permafrost is [the] same amount as what’s in the atmosphere. This is what we call positive feedback. Warming accelerates warming, and these features may develop in other places.”