Hollywood and science fiction have repeatedly tackled the idea of worlds below the surface of our planet. If an expanding Eastern Siberian crater is taken as a reference point, then perhaps a portal to a subterranean world may have been found.

A doorway to hell — as others have labeled it.

But while there are those like the local folk who believe that the crater may be an entrance to the underworld, to climate scientists, it is an opportunity to view more than 200,000 years of climate change in Siberia.

In a study published in the journal Quaternary Research in February, scientists reported the Batagaika Crater to be a kilometer (0.62 mile) long and 86 meters (328 feet) deep.

The Batagaika Crater

Batagaika is located about 6 miles southeast of the town of Batagay, in the Verkhoyansk region of northern Yakutia.

The Batagaika Crater, which first formed in the 1960s after a large piece of forest was cleared, is the result of melting permafrost. The soil stays frozen for two years in a row or longer. The jagged terrain is known as thermokarst.

Seen from the air, the "megaslump" closely resembles a one-celled organism with a tail structure that could propel it through an aquatic environment.

In a way, such projected movement may have basis. Satellite imagery indicates that the size of the depression is estimated to grow up to 15 meters annually.

Scientists who seek to understand how climate change impacts the permafrost have been optimistic at how much data the partially manmade phenomenon could bring to the table, which could provide insights into the climate.

An earlier expedition gathered samples of plants and soil, and tried to identify the age of the layers of soil that had been frozen in the permafrost.

According to Professor Julian Murton of the University of Sussex, the project will allow scientists to compare the data of similar objects in different parts of the planet such as those in Greenland, China, and Antarctica. Data on ancient soils and vegetation taken from collected soil sediments will help in reconstructing the history of the planet.

'Drunken Trees'

Rapid deforestation and greenhouse gases have been identified to contribute to global warming. In Batagaika, there is a phenomenon called "drunken trees," which refers to trees that stoop.

The permafrost ends up melting much faster and erosion takes place much sooner because there is less shade from them.

Warming Temperatures Caused By Thermokarst

Scientists warn that thermokarst may also cause warming temperatures in the future.

According to a 2016 study in the journal Nature Communications, the climate experienced a substantial increase in temperatures from greenhouse gases from the permafrost in the recent Ice Age, an event that could be repeated in the future.

After the study's release, co-author Francesco Muschitiello told Columbia University's science blog that "the Arctic carbon reservoir locked in the Siberian permafrost has the potential to lead to massive emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere."

The Batagaika area is one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth where the remains of mummified ancient bison, horses, elks, mammoths, and reindeer — with some estimated to be more than 4,400 years old — have been found.

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