Something strange is happening in Siberia.
Scientists keep coming across patches of ground that are randomly rising up and wobbling like jelly under foot.
At first, we only knew of 15 such bubbles, but new research suggests there could be up to 7,000 dotted around the region.
Poised to explode at any moment, they pose a major safety risk to the people who live and work locally.
Alexey Titovsky, director of the Yamal Department for Science and Innovation, has been investigating the phenomenon.
He told The Siberia Times: “At first, such a bump is a bubble, or ‘bulgunyakh’ in the local Yakut language.”
“With time, the bubble explodes, releasing gas. This is how gigantic funnels form.”
It’s believed that when they finally pop, some of the largest bubbles form giant craters. Several have already been spotted across Siberia.
Last year, researchers found the bubbles contained up to 1,000 times more methane and 25 times more CO2 than the surrounding air.
The investigations, which haven’t been peer-reviewed, suggest that climate change could be to blame.
“Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost, which in is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during last several decades,” a spokesperson for the Russian Academy of Science told The Siberian Times.
The theory is that the craters form when pingos – dome-shaped mounds covering ice – erupt due to the pressure of methane gas being released as the permafrost warms.
As Science Alert notes, the researchers’ priority now is to identify which bubbles pose a threat to locals as soon as possible.