The Yamal Peninsula (Russian: полуо́стров Яма́л) is located in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of northwest Siberia, Russia. It extends roughly 700 km (435 mi) and is bordered principally by the Kara Sea, Baydaratskaya Bay on the west, and by the Gulf of Ob on the east. At the northern end of this peninsula lie the Malygina Strait and, beyond it, Bely Island. In the language of its indigenous inhabitants, the Nenets, "Yamal" means "End of the Land".
Yamal is inhabited by a multitude of migratory bird species.
The well-preserved remains of Lyuba, a 37,000-year-old mammoth calf, were found by a reindeer herder on the peninsula in the summer of 2007. The animal was female and was determined to be one month old at the time of death.
According to Sven Haakanson, within the Russian Federation, the Yamal peninsula is the place where traditional large-scale nomadic reindeer husbandry is best preserved. Nenets and Khanty reindeer herders hold about half a million domestic reindeer.
The area is largely undeveloped, but work is ongoing with several large infrastructure projects, including a gas pipeline and several bridges. Yamal holds Russia's biggest natural gas reserves. The 572 km Obskaya–Bovanenkovo railway, completed in 2011, is the northernmost railway in the world. Russian gas monopolist Gazprom had planned to develop the Yurkharovskoye gas field by 2011–2012. The peninsula's gas reserves are estimated to be 55 trillion cubic meters (tcm). Russia's largest energy project in history, known as the Yamal project, puts the future of nomadic reindeer herding at considerable risk.
In 2014, Yamal was the discovery site of a distinct sinkhole, or pingo, which quickly drew the attention of world media. The sinkhole appeared to be the result of a huge explosion and several hypotheses were suggested to explain the formation of the crater, including a hit by a meteorite or a UFO, or the collapse of an underground gas facility.
A spokesperson for the Yamal branch of the Emergencies Ministry said, "We can definitely say that it’s not a meteorite."
The 60-meter (66-yard) crater is believed by a senior researcher from the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic, Andrei Plekhanov, in remarks to the Associated Press, to be likely the result of a "buildup of excessive pressure" underground because of warming regional temperatures in that portion of Siberia. Tests conducted by Plekhanov's team showed unusually high concentrations of methane near the bottom of the sinkhole.
The destabilization of gas hydrates containing huge amounts of methane gas are believed to have caused the craters on the Yamal Peninsula.
As of 2015, the Yamal peninsula had at least five similar craters.
Another crater appeared in August 2020.
Offshore methane leaks
According to researchers at Norway's Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate (CAGE), through a process called geothermal heat flux, the Siberian permafrost, which extends to the seabed of the Kara Sea, a section of the Arctic Ocean between the Yamal Peninsula and Novaya Zemlya, is thawing. According to a CAGE researcher, Aleksei Portnov:
"The permafrost is thawing from two sides... [T]he interior of the Earth is warm and is warming the permafrost from the bottom up. It is called geothermal heat flux and it is happening all the time, regardless of human influence."— CAGE 2014
"The thawing of permafrost on the ocean floor is an ongoing process, likely to be exaggerated by the global warming of the world´s oceans."— CAGE 2014
Methane is leaking in an area of at least 7500 m2. In some areas gas flares extend up to 25 m (82 ft). Prior to their research it was proposed that methane was tightly sealed into the permafrost by water depths up to 100 m (330 ft). Close to the shore however, where the permafrost seal tapers to a depth of as little as 20 m (66 ft), there are significant amounts of gas leakage.
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We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area. Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula,...