Arctic Methane Craters

The sublimation of methane hydrates can result in the explosive release of methane into the atmosphere and the formation of methane craters. The featured image in this article shows an example of a methane explosion crater from the Yamal area of Russia.

In environments where temperatures are low, and pressures are high, conditions are ripe for the formation of methane hydrates, or methane clathrates as they are also known. Large amounts of methane become trapped within water crystals forming a substance similar to ice. Currently, large deposits of these clathrates exist on the ocean floors, and in shallow Arctic waters. Clathrate deposits also form on land, locked into Arctic permafrost.

If temperatures rise or confining pressures decrease, then these clathrates can sublimate into methane gas. Rapid release of these gases is catastrophic, in some cases causing an explosive release. Vasily Bogoyavlensky, Director at the Russian Academy of Sciences claims there are hundreds of these methane craters in the Russian Arctic.

See and Ancient Analog to Global Warming –

Mysterious craters blowing out of Russia could mean trouble for the whole planet (Stacey Yuen – CNBC) –

Could Subsea Methane Hydrates Be a Warming “Tipping Point”? Alan Robock – EOS) –

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.