Siberia’s ‘doorway to the Underworld’ Is Getting So Big It’s Uncovering Ancient Forests

The deep crater Batagaika is constantly scaring the residents, but scientists immediately gave answers to the numerous questions about the climate change.

Into the middle taiga in the north of Siberia, there is a giant crater, which due to the scared locals was named “Gate of the underground”. The particularly disturbing fact for the locals is that the hole is getting bigger almost every day for the last 50 years.

The deep crater Batagaika occurred as a consequence of global warming, leading to a warming of the Siberian region of eternal snow and ice.

The crater that appeared in the 60s, is one kilometer long and 120 meters deep today – and continues to spread and grow. The reason the crater was created, was because of damaging the woods after the country lost its protection.

Although this is the coldest region on the Earth, a land that was formerly in the shade of trees and dense forests, become exposed to sunlight and high temperatures, causing it to melt.

Frank Günther from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, last year, made a research revealing that the head wall of the crater has grown by an average of 10 meters (33 feet) per year over the past decade of observations. And in warmer years, the growth has been up to 30 meters (98 feet) per year. The team also suspects that the side wall of the crater will reach a neighboring valley in the coming months as temperatures heat up in the Northern Hemisphere, which could lead to even more land collapse.

“On average over many years, we have seen that there’s not so much acceleration or deceleration of these rates, it’s continuously growing,” Günther told Melissa Hogenboom from the BBC. “And continuous growth means that the crater gets deeper and deeper every year.”

The instability of the region isn’t just dangerous for locals, there are also concerns that as the hole gets deeper and larger, it will expose carbon stores that have been locked away for thousands of years.

“Global estimations of carbon stored in permafrost is the same amount as what’s in the atmosphere,” Günther told the BBC.

But it’s not all terrible news. A study published this month in the journalQuaternary Research has shown that the layers exposed by the crater could now reveal 200,000 years of climate data.

The crater is constantly getting bigger and bigger, but some scientists as Julian Murtha see their good sides.

That’s in addition to the preserved remains of long-buried forests, ancient pollen samples, and even the frozen remains of a musk oxmammoth, and a 4,400-year-old horse.

“The Batagaika site contains a remarkably thick sequence of permafrost deposits, which include two wood-rich layers interpreted as forest beds that indicate past climates about as warm or warmer than today’s climate,” Murton told Sarah Emerson over at Motherboard last year.

“The upper forest bed overlies an old land surface that was eroded, probably when permafrost thawed in a past episode of climate warming.”

But there’s more research that needs to be done – the exact dates of the sediment that have been exposed in the crater still aren’t known, Murton told Hogenboom.

He’s now planning to drill bore holes in the region to analyze more sediment and get a more accurate understanding of what happened in the past.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to see if climate change during the last Ice Age [in Siberia] was characterized by a lot of variabilities: warming and cooling, warming and cooling as occurred in the North Atlantic region,” says Murton.