Siberia’s Massive Crater Offers A Window Into Earth’s Climate History

Posted: Mar 8 2017, 1:06pm CST | by , Updated: Mar 8 2017, 10:16pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Siberia’s Massive Crater Offers a Window into Earth’s Climate History
Batagaika Crater in Siberia. Credit: Alexander Gabyshev
 

The permafrost has helped to preserve ancient soils of Batagaika crater for thousands of years.

Much of our understanding of past climate is based on the study of ancient soils and sediments. These sedimentary soils excavated from deep, remote places allow researchers to stitch together events that occurred before records began. That’s exactly what a geographer from the University of Sussex and his colleges found when they examined a huge crater in the icy surface of Siberia.

Nicknamed the "gateway to the underworld," the gargantuan Batagaika crater lives up to its reputation. The crater is one kilometer-long and 328 feet deep, making it one of the deepest to be discovered. More surprisingly, the crater is getting bigger, wider and the exact reason for this rapid expansion is not known yet.

It's no secret that Siberia's permafrost is fragile and is getting thinner as of late. The crater is probably growing rapidly as higher temperatures have thawed the frozen soil in recent decades. The frozen soil has helped preserve ancient sedimentary rocks for thousands of years.

The Batagaika Crater started to form in the 1960s and since then it is expanding at a rate of 60 feet each year.

Professor Julian Murton from the University of Sussex has been working on the site for a while and he suggests that two forest layers of the crater's frozen soil could be up to 200,000 years old. Researchers will compare these observations from similar sites in Greenland, China, Antarctica, which will enable them to reconstruct a history of the Earth and help them better understand climate change.

Looking into the past can also help them understand whether there are unidentifiable patterns that could give us clues into what will happen in the future and how our planet responds to climate change.

“The frozen soils we have discovered in this crater are some of the best preserved and oldest ever to be found in permafrost regions. Ultimately, we're trying to see if climate change during the last Ice Age (in Siberia) was characterized by a lot of variability: warming and cooling, warming and cooling as occurred in the North Atlantic region,” said Professor Julian Murton. 

“If we can understand what the ecosystem was like 125,000 and 200,000 years ago we might get some inking into how the environment may change now as our climate warms.”

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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