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Sometimes described as resembling a stingray or a tadpole, the Batagaika Crater is a widening chasm in Siberia and the world’s largest permafrost crater.

Multiple satellites have recorded the crater’s growth, from declassified satellite imagery collected in the 1960s to current multispectral sensor images from Landsat and Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite, to build a continuous view over the last 60 years.

Each exposed layer of the crater wall is like a snapshot in time, helping scientists understand the past climate. Layers of permafrost exposed at the bottom might be up to 650,000 years old. Scientists have also discovered mummified wildlife in the crater. In 2018, the remains of a 42,000-year-old foal of an extinct horse species were found.

Why this matters

As frozen permafrost soils thaw, they release carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.


Every picture has a story to tell
Aug. 13, 1991, Landsat 5 (path/row 122/12) — Batagaika Crater, Russia
Aug. 13, 1991, Landsat 5 (path/row 122/12) — Batagaika Crater, Russia
Aug. 11, 2022, Landsat 8 (path/row 121/13) — Batagaika Crater, Russia
Aug. 11, 2022, Landsat 8 (path/row 121/13) — Batagaika Crater, Russia


Additional story information


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Lem, P., 2017, Batagaika Crater Expands: NASA Earth Observatory, accessed August 25, 2021, at

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Stone, R., 2020, Siberia’s ‘gateway to the underworld’ grows as record heat wave thaws permafrost: Science, accessed August 25, 2021, at

Turetsky, M.R., Abbott, B. W., Jones, M.C., Anthony, K.W., Olefeldt, D., Schuur, E.A.G., Koven, C., McGuire, A.D., Grosse, G., Kuhry, P., Hugelius, G., Lawrence, D.M., Gibson, C., and Sannel, A.B., 2019, Permafrost collapse is accelerating carbon release: Nature, v. 569, p. 32–34,

Vadakkedath, V., Zawadzki, J., and Przeździecki, K., 2020, Multisensory satellite observations of the expansion of the Batagaika crater and succession of vegetation in its interior from 1991 to 2018: Environmental Earth Sciences, v. 79,

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