Where You Gonna Go When The Pingos Blow?

Methane Domes (and Their Craters) Formed By Thawing Permafrost Are Another Confirmation of Rapid Changes in the Arctic

Sibera crater
Undersea pingos are potentially more alarming than the terrestrial versions when it comes to potential for violent methane events.


Back in 2014 there was a small hullabaloo about a “mysterious” crater that had appeared seemingly overnight in Eastern Siberia. There was talk of extraterrestrials and meteorites. But the folks with the science degrees concluded the crater was likely to be a only a collapsed pingo, or methane mound. Pingos themselves are a little otherworldly in appearance, but not hard to explain: A pingo is a formation of soil and ice that has been pushed up from below by expanding methane gas. The peculiar landform only develops in permafrost regions. Pingos can be as tall as 200 ft and thousands of ft in diameter.

Beyond their strange visual characteristics, however, is the fact that pingos may be metaphorically like an planetary skin irruption disguising larger health problems. As more and more methane is released from permafrost, there is an increase in the potential for pingos to blow up, leaving the iconic craters behind.

According to the Siberian Times, a large pingo is being monitored by Russian space satellites with the expectation that it is ready to blow. The collapsed pingo/craters indicate that the powerful greenhouse gas can erupt as well as seep. The Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics has released research warning of the dangers of such an explosion could threaten communities in the area. If it were to occur in an area near gas or oil facilities, it could be a huge problem.

There is no longer any doubt that  permafrost is melting quickly across Canada, Alaska, Siberia and the rest of the Arctic North. For a very long time, methane has been trapped beneath the permafrost, but that is no longer the case. The formation of pingos is another confirmation that methane is escaping from the places it used to be and moving into the atmosphere. The collapsed pingo/craters indicate that the powerful greenhouse gas can erupt as well as seep.

Pingo formations
Undersea pingos are potentially more alarming when it comes to violent methane events.

UNDERSEA PINGO DISCOVERY
In the most recent pingo development, Russian scientists have discovered an entire underwater landscape of pingo craters in the South Kara Sea off the coast of the Yamal Peninsula. While the cause and effect scenario at this point is a matter of informed speculation, the most obvious conclusion is that the crater fields are what is left behind when the pingos explode and release the methane gases underneath.

The subsea pingos can be 3,000 ft (914m) wide and 30 ft (9m) tall.

While there are existing pingo areas in other Arctic regions, the question now is whether new pingos are forming and blowing out at a more rapid pace. The Russins are saying that the gasses driving these formations shows a modern methane chemical signature.

Sibera crater
Undersea pingos are potentially more alarming than the terrestrial versions when it comes to potential for violent methane events.

If that is the case, it would be hard to argue against rapid warming of the permafrost as a cause.

For the average Joe/Jane, it is unlikely you will be injured or killed by an exploding pingo. But the global warming that is most likely causing them is going to change your world one way or the other.


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