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.
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