are built over bulging and unstable Arctic pingos prone to violent
eruptions caused by 'thawing methane gas', as seen twice on the Yamal
peninsula this year.
funnel. Picture: Aleksandr Sokolov
analysis by satellite and helicopter shows gas pipelines run
right over swelling tundra which is deeply unstable due to the
release of underground methane that had been frozen in permafrost -
now thawing - for thousands of years, revealed Russia's leading
expert on the new phenomenon, Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky.
one recent explosion, permafrost soil was thrown around 1 kilometre
from the epicentre of the blast, highlighting the huge force,
shot into the sky, and a 50 metre-deep crater was formed from the
process is seen as caused by the warming Arctic climate and has vast
implications for the energy industry in polar regions.
funnel. Picture: Yamal Region
from Yamal is crucial to both Russia and the European energy system,
with exports in particular to Poland and Germany.
7,000 pingos - scientific namehydrolaccoliths -
have been identified in Yamal, and one estimate is that some 700 of
these mounds could be prone to eruptions.
are harmless but the difficulty for experts is identifying which are
a number of areas pingos - we see both from satellite data with
own eyes during helicopter inspections - they literally prop up gas
pipes,' said the professor.
would even use another term - in some places they jack up gas pipes.
you understand? They seem to begin to slightly bend these pipes.'
and Seyakhinskaya funnels. Pictures: Aleksandr Sokolov, Yamal region
say villages and towns are also under threat, but the risk of
explosions under gas supply pipelines is clearly acute.
Mazharov, deputy head of the governor of Yamalo-Nenets autonomous
region, said: 'It is cleat that it was not a meteorite, but gas
explosion was in an Arctic river, and it was immediately submerged
did a good job as we took samples of water, soil and air. Now it is
time for laboratories to give us results of analyses,' he said.
Vasily Bogoyavlensky. Picture: Vesti Yamal
crater - or funnel - that was found same week is called
Yerkutinskaya. This is up to 10 metres in diameter and visible depth
is 30 metres.
on satellite data, we have marked 7,000 bulges (pingos) - or even
more,' said Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Oil and Gas
Research Institute, Moscow.
doesn't mean that every pingo carries danger but it is still clear
that we can draw certain conclusions.
calls these bulges 'bugunyakhs'. In the West they are called pingos.'
now believe that Yamal's landscape - pockmarked by round-shaped lakes
- was substantially caused by this process over hundreds of years.
means it was not solely the recent 'global warming' that was
responsible but more subtle rhythms of melting every decade with the
Arctic Ocean ice cover melting by some 14%.
it is only in the past three years that the formation of the new
craters has been witnessed.
the case of the most recent explosion - now named Seyakhinskaya - it
was witnessed by herders, and reindeer and dogs were seen fleeing in
terror - see
our previous report here.
inside hydrolaccoliths thaws under the influence of high air
temperature, say scientists. Water takes less volume, while the
vacant space is filled with a gas mixture, substantially methane.
the gas pressure inside the dome begins to exceed the pressure of the
soil layer on the surface, gas gets out.
this happens as an emission, but in some cases, there is a fierce
tundra of the Yamal Peninsula. Video credit Aleksandr Sokolov
Bogoyavlensky believes the explosions are similar to the under-ocean
eruptions of methane that caused the so-called Bermuda Triangle.
Yamal peninsula is now one of the world's key sites for production of
natural gas for residential and industrial supplies, notably to
Western Europe, for example by Gazprom.
there are three seismic stations on the Yamal peninsula, in Sabetta,
Bovanenkovo and Kharasavey.
believe at least six permanent stations are required, with
three more located in Urengoy, Bely island and Salekhard.
issue of Yamal tundra explosions is to addressed at the next meeting
of the Russian government's state commission on exploration of the
of the newest Yamal funnels, and pictures of the funnel known as F1,
registered in 2014. Pictures: The Siberian Times, Vasily