Dozens of Craters in Siberia Trigger Alarm-Scientists

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Scientists were baffled last July when they discovered three giant holes in the ground in the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia.

Now, with the help of satellite imagery, researchers have located four additional craters–and they believe there may be dozens more in the region. That has them calling for an urgent investigation to protect residents living in the area.

I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them… I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more,” Prof. Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. “It is important not to scare people, but to understand that it is a very serious problem and we must research this.”

Researchers ventured deep inside one of the holes last November, collecting data in an effort to learn why the holes formed. The leading theory is that the holes were created by gas explosions triggered by underground heat or by rising air temperatures associated with climate change, the Siberian Times reported last December.

Since scientists can’t predict when or where gas explosions will occur, it’s dangerous to study them, according to Bogoyavlensky. But he said his team is planning to launch a new expedition, and to put stations in the area to detect earthquakes that might strike when the craters open up.

“We need to answer now the basic questions: what areas and under what conditions are the most dangerous?” he told the Siberian Times. “These questions are important for safe operation of the northern cities and infrastructure of oil and gas complexes.”

Experts in the U.S. echoed that sentiment.

Dr. Carolyn Ruppel, a research geophysicist at the Woods Hole Field Center in Massachusetts and chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gas Hydrates Project, told The Huffington Post in an email that she was not surprised that new holes had been found.

Ruppel, who is not involved in the Siberian research effort, called for more research on the holes.

“The processes that are causing them to form likely occur over a wide area of the continuous permafrost in this part of Siberia,” she said in the email. “Scientists should definitely conduct more research on these features to determine the processes that cause their formation, how they evolve with time, and whether it is possible to predict where new ones will occur.”

Another Epiphany-Too Late?

Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth Muller in 2011. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

He finally came around to what other climate scientists have been spouting for years. Richard A. Muller, a physics professor at the University of California-Berkeley, announced over the weekend that his much-publicized investigation into climate data has found that humans’ production of carbon dioxide is causing the world to slowly warm up. And this process could speed up dramatically in the next few years.

Muller’s conclusions attract special attention because of his vocal self-styling as a converted climate change skeptic. Muller criticized global warming studies for sloppy and self-serving data selection and a lack of transparency that obscured errors; he then lambasted fellow scientists for circling the wagons and calling any climate change deniers wrong. Muller says he’s still upset that the American Physical Society declared the evidence for warming "incontrovertible" a few years ago in an official statement.

"We don’t do things in science that are incontrovertible," Muller said in an interview with Yahoo News.

Muller took matters into his own hands and embarked on his own investigation into the data with his daughter Elizabeth and a team of scientists three years ago. His Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatureproject attracted funding from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, the nonprofit outfit of a wealthy businessman who denies that global warming is happening. Three years later, Muller ended up surprising himself when his research confirmed everything those same studies that drew his skepticism concluded, and then some. Muller says his study’s results are more reliable than many previous ones because he intentionally avoided the data pitfalls he objected to, such as only using a portion of the global temperatures available. (He expounds on his methods here.)

Muller’s study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but he says he plans to do so at some point. One climate scientist, Benjamin D. Santer, told the Los Angeles Times he thinks posting the study online and not in a journal is in "the spirit of publicity, not the spirit of science" and may do more to hurt the global warming cause than help it. But Muller wants to get feedback on his methods and to share his results with everyone, avoiding what he sees as a secrecy and lack of transparency that surrounded earlier climate change studies. REST OF STORY……