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Giant holes found in Siberia could be signs of a ticking climate ‘time bomb’

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giant-holeWhen a helicopter pilot spotted the first crater in the summer of 2014, everyone was baffled.

The 100-foot-wide hole appeared on the Yamal Peninsula seemingly out of nowhere, during a tense season of Russian military action in Ukraine and international sanctions.

And then more appeared. Lacking a better explanation, aliens and underground missiles were floated as possible theories, according to the Washington Post.

But the truth is that the holes might come from a threat not even Mulder and Scully are equipped to handle: climate change.

Scientific American reports that Arctic zones are warming at a breakneck pace, and the summer of 2014 was warmer than average by an alarming 9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to another story in Nature. As a result, scientists at NOAA think that permafrost, the permanently frozen ground that covers the tundra, is starting to thaw in these warmer temperatures.

So how does frozen methane blow a 100-foot-wide hole in the ground?

Given low enough temperatures and high enough pressure, methane and water can freeze together into what’s called a “methane hydrate.” Permafrost keeps everything bottled up but when it thaws, so does the hydrate. Methane is released as a gas, building up pressure — until the ground explodes.

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