IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


25th July, 2023 Geography

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The alarming situation of the Batagaika crater, which is the world's largest permafrost crater located in Russia's Far East.


  • The Batagaika crater, located in Russia's Far East, is the world's largest permafrost crater.
  • Scientists are raising alarm as the "mega slump" caused by the thawing of the crater poses threats to cities and towns in northern and northeastern Russia.
  • The release of an "enormous quantity" of organic carbon from the thawing may further fuel global warming, impacting the planet.

Understanding Permafrost Craters

  • Permafrost is ground that remains completely frozen at zero degrees Celsius for at least two years straight.
  • Permafrost consists of a combination of soil, rocks, and sand held together by ice.
  • Permafrost is most common in regions near the North and South poles and covers a significant portion of the Earth's land area.

Formation and Environmental Factors

  • Permafrost formation is influenced by several environmental factors, including air temperature, snow cover, and ground insulation.
  • The presence of cold temperatures over an extended period prevents the ground from thawing during the warmer months, leading to permafrost formation.
  • The thickness of permafrost can vary from a few centimeters to several hundred meters.

Types of Permafrost

  • Continuous Permafrost: This type of permafrost covers large areas and remains frozen throughout the year.
  • Discontinuous Permafrost: Found in regions with milder climates, discontinuous permafrost includes patches of frozen ground interspersed with unfrozen areas.
  • Sporadic Permafrost: Sporadic permafrost occurs in regions where only isolated patches of frozen ground exist amid predominantly unfrozen ground.

Permafrost Craters - Causes and Formation

  • Permafrost craters are large depressions or sinkholes that form due to the thawing of permafrost.
  • They are typically the result of a process called "thermokarst," where the ground collapses as ice within the permafrost melts and causes the surface to sink.
  • Deforestation, changes in land use, and warming temperatures are some of the factors contributing to the formation of permafrost craters.

The "Gateway to the Underworld" - Batagaika Crater

  • The Batagaika crater is known as the "gateway to the underworld" by locals near Siberia.
  • It is a massive gash in the landscape, about one kilometer long, which first appeared in the 1960s.
  • Deforestation in the area caused the loss of ground ice, leading to erosion and land sinking, resulting in the crater's formation.

Rapid Growth and "Mega-Slump"

  • The locals have witnessed the rapid expansion of the crater over time.
  • Russian scientists call the expansion a "mega-slump," and it poses significant dangers.
  • The entire country is warming at least 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world, and this is causing the long-frozen tundra to melt.

Threats to Cities and Towns

  • The expanding crater poses threats to cities and towns across northern and northeastern Russia.
  • Buckling roadways, splitting houses, and disrupting pipelines are among the challenges caused by the slump's growth.

Implications for Climate Change

  • The thawing permafrost in the Batagaika crater contains an "enormous quantity" of organic carbon.
  • Greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere from the thawed soil, further contributing to global warming.
  • The increasing air temperature will likely lead to higher expansion rates of the crater, exacerbating climate warming.

Future Outlook

  • Scientists predict that with increasing temperatures and anthropogenic pressure, more "mega-slumps" like the Batagaika crater will form.
  • This indicates that permafrost across the region may eventually disappear.


Q) Discuss the factors contributing to the formation and rapid expansion of permafrost craters.  (150 words)