Published on 10 December 2020
The Gateway to Hell: a Siberian crater bears witness to global warming
This gorgeous image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 10 July 2020 and processed using the imager’s near-infrared channels.
The Batagaika Crater, also called the Gateway to hell, is the largest permafrost crater in the world (about one kilometre wide and 90 metres deep). This massive landslide can be found in Siberia, and was formed in the 1960s when deforestation caused the permafrost to thaw.
Since then the crater has been growing year after year, as the warming climate thaws the frozen ground. Ice in the crater is turning to water, which evaporates or flows away. The result is that the residual sediments are no longer kept together by ice and start subsiding.
Researchers believe the exposed ice and soil along the crater’s edges could hold up to 200,000 years of geological and biological history.
This second image, obtained by combining two Copernicus Sentinel-2 data products acquired roughly four years apart (4 September 2016 and 10 July 2020), shows the evolution of the crater over time. The areas of the crater coloured in red show the growth of the crater between 2016 and 2020.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission is a constellation of two twin satellites, Sentinel-2A and 2B. The former was launched in 2015, the latter in 2016. With a maximum revisit time of 5 days, the Sentinel-2 mission provides free and open-access imagery, allowing users to monitor the temporal evolution of environmental phenomena and emergency situations on a regular basis.