The “Gateway to Hell” in Siberia is expanding so fast it can be seen from space

A 200-hectare-wide and nearly 100-meter-deep hole in Siberia’s Yana Highlands, known as the “Batagaika Crater,” is expanding faster than expected due to climate change. The Batagaika crater, also known as the “Gateway to Hell,” was created when the “eternal ice”—the frozen soil in Siberia—began to melt. This melting released a significant amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Permafrost is a layer of soil or rock that remains frozen for at least two consecutive years. It is usually found in very cold regions, such as the Arctic and Antarctic, and contains a mixture of ice, organic material, and minerals. New research has revealed that the rate of methane and other carbon gases being released as the crater deepens has reached between 4,000 and 5,000 tonnes per year.

The findings, according to the study’s lead author, “show how quickly the permafrost is breaking up.” He warns that the crater will soon likely release all the remaining greenhouse gases it holds.

The giant “Gateway to Hell” crater in Siberia which can be seen from space is “rapidly expanding” due to climate change.

Scientists say that the 200-acre wide, nearly 300-foot-deep Batagaika crater’s increasing size is posing problems for the surrounding habitat.

Glaciologist Alexander Kiziakov, lead author of the study, worked with a dozen other researchers on this new study, published this month in the journal Geomorphology. Kizyakov and his colleagues found that the crater has almost reached its base, meaning the melting of the permafrost is nearly complete. However, Kizyakov, who teaches at Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia, noted that there is still scope for the melt to continue sideways.

“Expansion along the margins and uphill is expected. This lateral expansion is also limited by the proximity of the rock, the top of which apparently rises to the saddle between the nearest mountains at about 550 meters upslope,” he explained. The team developed a 3D model of how the permafrost yielded during its decades-long collapse using a wide range of data from various independent sources.


High-resolution remote sensing—collected from satellite data and drone flights over Batagaica—was combined with permafrost and other soil samples from field expeditions in 2019 and 2023. All that data was fed into their computer models. This model helped them map and predict the melting of the underlying geologic structure of the permafrost to learn how much and which materials thaw inside it, and then what is released, whether into the water table or the atmosphere.

The results revealed, as Kiziakov stated, “how dynamically landforms change in permafrost areas.”

Nikita Tananaev, a researcher at the Melnikov Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, who was not involved in the new research, noted that it is this leakage from the crater that is permanently altering nearby ecosystems.

“This will lead to significant changes in the habitat of the river, and the effect of the sediment that will escape from the fall, the Batagaika crater, has been observed even in the Yana River, the main river nearby,” Tananaev said.

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