Land in the Siberian tundra is becoming much like a springy trampoline or a natural fun house. The fact that grassy land is bubbling and swaying is both confusing and troubling to those watching the region.
Researchers in Siberia discovered that underground gases trapped in the ground gave extra bounce to the step of anyone out for a stroll. Even though the effect is something out of a child’s dream, the gases causing this strange natural phenomena are actually quite dangerous.
Once released into the atmosphere, they have a great potential to affect global warming.
A combination of methane and carbon dioxide was found trapped within the ground on Belyy Island, off Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula. The gas could be a result of the thawing of layers of permafrost.
As ancient organic matter in the permafrost layers warms, gases are emitted with potentially damaging effects for the environment. The effects of the thawing permafrost are related to the unusually hot summer this year, along with the overall increase in temperatures in recent years.
Researchers discovered 15 different patches of land on Belyy, all with such a bouncy quality.
— Rick Brutti (@Rbrutti) July 21, 2016
As The Siberian Times reports, researchers aren’t totally sure why the ground has turned into a trampoline. They can only speculate that the thawing permafrost release of gases is to blame. Researchers are still exploring whether there could be a connection between this phenomenon and others, such as sinkholes and craters that have suddenly shown up in areas of the Siberian landscape. Some craters have formed in really bizarre ways, leaving locals and researchers lost in speculation. One such crater was formed after a ground explosion emitted sound for miles away, left an ominous glow in the sky, and left a huge hole in the ground. That crater formed in 2013 and has grown over time to the size of a lake.
As PRI reports, the strange thing about the sinkholes in Siberia is that they seem to erupt when they form rather than sink. Scientists are puzzled as to why they emit outward, rather than sink inward.
They are something no one has seen before, and some think they might have a supernatural origin. In addition to the changes to the environment believed to result from gases, warming waters are also having an effect.
Polar bears have wandered further inland from the Kara Sea in search of food. They’ve even ventured close to human scientists in the midst of research.
Some had to be scared off with gunshots and barking guard dogs. Scientists believe this is also the result of the overall warming effect that seems to be throwing the ecosystem into disarray.
— PaisajesMaravillosos (@Paisajesmaravil) July 12, 2016
Siberia is one of the most sparsely populated regions on Earth, perhaps owing to its extreme climate. The frigid temperatures of the Siberian tundra are the reason why most people live in the south of the region, along the Trans-Siberian railway, warm enough for decent plant life and warmer summer months. The more north you go in Siberia, ever closer to the Arctic Circle, is where you meet the places that almost never see warmth. Of course, all that seems to be changing with changes in the Earth’s climate as a whole, but don’t pack your bags for a Siberian holiday yet.
Though the whole of Siberia is physically located in Asia, since it is under Russian administration, it is often grouped together with Russia as belonging to Europe. A closer examination reveals tons of ethnic diversity in the region, people who historically have lived under such extreme conditions and who may have more in common with Mongolians and related Asian groups than with Russians.
As for the newly discovered bouncy patches of land, if the gas isn’t released in time, it could be the beginnings of more such craters and mysterious sinkholes. If enough gas builds up underneath there, who is to say it couldn’t burst out into more lake-sized cavities?
Hopefully, researchers will be at a safe distance if that ever happens.