Cryovolcanism on the Earth: Origin of a Spectacular Crater in the Yamal Peninsula (Russia)

Sergey N. Buldovicz, Vanda Z. Khilimonyuk, Andrey Y. Bychkov, Evgeny N. Ospennikov, Sergey A. Vorobyev, Aleksey Y. Gunar, Evgeny I. Gorshkov, Evgeny M. Chuvilin, Maria Y. Cherbunina, Pavel I. Kotov, Natalia V. Lubnina, Rimma G. Motenko, Ruslan M. Amanzhurov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Geological activity on icy planets and planetoids includes cryovolcanism. Until recently, most research on terrestrial permafrost has been engineering-oriented, and many related phenomena have received too little attention. Although fast processes in the Earth’s cryosphere were known before, they have never been attributed to cryovolcanism. The discovery of a couple of tens of meters wide crater in the Yamal Peninsula aroused numerous hypotheses of its origin, including a meteorite impact or migration of deep gas as a result of global warming. However, the origin of the Yamal crater can be explained in terms of cryospheric processes. Thus, the Yamal crater appears to result from collapse of a large pingo, which formed within a thaw lake when it shoaled and dried out allowing a large talik (that is layer or body of unfrozen ground in a permafrost area) below it to freeze back. The pingo collapsed under cryogenic hydrostatic pressure built up in the closed system of the freezing talik. This happened before the freezing completed, when a core of wet ground remained unfrozen and stored a huge amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in pore water. This eventually reached gas-phase saturation, and the resulting overpressure came to exceed the lithospheric confining stress and the strength of the overlying ice. As the pingo exploded, the demarcation of the crater followed the cylindrical shape of the remnant talik core.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13534
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


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