Batagaika Crater has formed as rising temperatures have thawed the permafrost in Siberia. Warmer summers and shorter winters are causing the frozen layer cake of ice and soil to collapse (or “slump”) and erode away in much of the Arctic. Dozens of permafrost craters pock Russia’s northern landscape, but none rival the size of Batagaika, a so-called “megaslump” that has been devouring the slope above it and moving backwards into the hillside.“There have been reports that these backwards-thawing features are appearing around the Arctic, but this one is in a league of its own,” said Mary Edwards, a professor at the University of Southampton who co-authored a 2017 study of the crater. “Scientifically, it’s very interesting because we can see what’s underground.”The site—the biggest permafrost crater in the world—holds clues to prehistoric life on Earth. Researchers believe the exposed ice and soil along the crater’s edges could hold up to 200,000 years of geological and biological history.Batagaika has disgorged a handful of animals since it began growing, likely in the early 1980s. Equus lenensis (a Pleistocene horse) and Bison priscus (prehistoric steppe bison) have emerged from the thawing soil, as have assorted remains of cave lions and wolves. Researchers have found evidence that the region had a warmer climate and relatively dry, windy conditions during the Pleistocene Epoch. Spruce and pine forests once grew here, according to bits of wood found in the thawing soil.Today, low shrubs and larch trees grow across this tundra landscape. From space, the gash of exposed soil appears rough-cut, brown against the green terrain. The steep hills inside the crater contain few plants, a sign of their recent formation. The natural-color image above was captured on June 7, 2016 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite. The images below, taken by OLI (right) and the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) on Landsat 7 shows Batagaika’s rapid advance since 1999.
Trump sees Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal as the greatest danger facing U.S. national security, but he isn’t just inexperienced when it comes to foreign policy — he often veers into downright clumsiness. A recent example came two weeks ago, when he announced that he had directed a U.S. aircraft carrier to head toward North Korea as a warning — even though the vessel was actually heading in the opposite direction to take part in a maneuver near Australia. Whether it was a bluff or whether Trump had misunderstood something remains unclear — even as the vessel, the USS Carl Vinson, is now steaming toward Korean waters — but it does show the degree to which things can go wrong under this commander-in-chief.Following the numerous failures and defeats he has suffered early on in his presidency, Trump badly needs successes to present to his supporters as he passes the symbolically important 100-day threshold. An aggressive stance toward North Korea at least gives him the appearance of resolve and Trump hopes to demonstrate that he is able to stand up to the Pyongyang dictator. When he launched 59 missiles at Syria earlier this month, he received praise even from commentators who don’t normally have a kind word to say about this president. Because of Trump’s apparent addiction to public acclaim, it isn’t difficult to imagine the conclusions he drew.