To avoid such an event, the Russian team has now suggested drilling holes into the permafrost to release the pressure artificially.
But Hinzman says that it would be extremely difficult to do so, if not impossible, as one would have to know exactly where the build-up was in the first place.
Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179% methane.
Since the hole was spotted in mid-July by a helicopter pilot, conjecture has abounded about how the 30-metre-wide crater was formed — a gas or missile explosion, a meteorite impact and alien involvement have all been suggested.
But such gas hydrates normally occur at depths of at least 100 metres, says Carolyn Ruppel, a geophysicist in charge of the gas hydrates project at the US Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. When Plekhanov and his team tried to measure its depth with a video camera tied to a 50-metre rope, the camera did not reach the bottom.
But the video footage suggests that the depth to a pool of water at the bottom of the crater is around 70 metres, Plekhanov says.
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