“As the climate warms – I think there’s no shadow of a doubt it will warm – we will get increasing thaw of the permafrost and… there will be more slumps and more gullying, more erosion of the land surface,” explained Professor Julian Murton, a geologist at the University of Sussex who has recently visited Batagaika crater to study its features.
The release of greenhouse gases — most notably, methane — from melting permafrost is what is known as a climate feedback loop. As the planet warms, more permafrost melts and more greenhouse gases get released into the atmosphere, which leads to more warming and even more thawing, and so on. Once a process like this gets triggered, it becomes very difficult to stop. This is one reason that researchers warn that megaslumps like the Batagaika crater represent major threats to our planet’s climate. They’re an omen, a symptom, of a larger underlying disease.