Researchers have long contended that the epicenter of global warming is also farthest from the reach of humanity.

It’s in the barren landscapes of the frozen North, where red-cheeked children wear fur, the sun barely rises in the winter and temperatures can plunge dozens of degrees below zero. Such a place is the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, translated as “the ends of the Earth,” a desolate spit of land where a group called the Nenets live.

By now, you’ve heard of the crater on the Yamal Peninsula. It’s the one that suddenly appeared, yawning nearly 200 feet in diameter, and made several rounds in the global viral media machine. The adjectives most often used to describe it: giant, mysterious, curious. Scientists were subsequently “baffled.” Locals were “mystified.” There were whispers that aliens were responsible. Nearby residents peddled theories of “bright flashes” and “celestial bodies.”

There’s now a substantiated theory about what created the crater. And the news isn’t so good.

It may be methane gas, released by the thawing of frozen ground. According to a recent Nature article, “air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane – up to 9.6% – in tests conducted at the site on 16 July, says Andrei Plekhanov, an archaeologist at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia. Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179% methane.”

The scientist said the methane release may be related to Yamal’s unusually hot summers in 2012 and 2013, which were warmer by an average of 5 degrees Celsius. “As temperatures rose, the researchers suggest, permafrost thawed and collapsed, releasing methane that had been trapped in the icy ground,” the report stated.

Plekhanov explained to Nature that the conclusion is preliminary. He would like to study how much methane is contained in the air trapped inside the crater’s walls. Such a task, however, could be difficult. “Its rims are slowly melting and falling into the crater,” the researcher told the science publication.”

Some scientists contend the thawing of such terrain, rife with centuries of carbon, would release incredible amounts of methane gas and affect global temperatures. “Pound for pound, the comparative impact of (methane gas) on climate change is over 20 times greater than (carbon dioxide) over a 100-year period,” reported the Environmental Protection Agency.