The frigid plains of northern Siberia are becoming a hotspot for mysterious geological phenomena. Over the past couple of years, sudden craters have been exploding from the permafrost-laden ground. Last month, we reported on a giant chasm in the Sakha Republic that looms so wide and deep, locals refer to it as a "gateway to the underworld."
Now, the frozen tundra on Siberia's remote Belyy Island is home to the region's newest aberration: eerie, rippling, underground bubbles.
In a video released today by the Siberian Times, researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich investigate a seemingly nondescript tract of grass that turns out to be a large, concealed pocket of… something. Kind of like a trampoline, the subterranean bubble forcibly undulates as Sokolov puts pressure on one side using his foot. According to the Russian scientists, a total of 15 blister-like patches were discovered on the island.
The researchers who captured the strange footage said both methane and carbon dioxide poured out of the bubble when it was punctured. It's still unclear why or how these pockets of gas first formed, but it's possible that an unusual heat wave caused permafrost to thaw, which allowed trapped methane gas to escape.
This wouldn't be the first time that leaky methane has been blamed for Siberia's wild anomalies. Geologists suspect that massive sinkholes and craters started to pop up when previously frozen tundras began to rapidly melt. Many scientists are concerned that Arctic methane emissions could "trigger additional warming." One study estimated that by 2100, up to 205 billion tons of carbon emissions will be released by permafrost if climate change continues to worsen.
Belyy Island sits in the Arctic Ocean's Kara Sea, and is a popular destination for researchers studying the ways climate change is affecting northern ecosystems. The area is home to a large population of polar bears, which Russian biologists recently started tracking with satellite collars.
According to Sokolov, the island has been unseasonably warm this summer, causing bands of hungry polar bears to come ashore in search of food. Climate change, it seems, is shaking up our world in more ways than just one.