Mysterious hole the size of ME opens in Antarctica

A Giant Mysterious Hole Has Emerged In Antarctica And Scientists Still Don't Know The Reason

A Giant Mysterious Hole Has Emerged In Antarctica And Scientists Still Don't Know The Reason

According to satellite imagery, it appeared in the same place as it did forty years ago.

The sea ice hole, known in the scientific community by the Russian term polynya, measured 80,000 square kilometres at its peak - a little bigger than New Brunswick and a little smaller than the island of Newfoundland. This means that whatever is causing it has some sort of repetitive nature, which could help scientists uncover what is happening.

A giant hole as large as the state of ME has opened up in Antarctica's Weddell Sea for the second year in a row, confusing scientists due to its unusual characteristics.

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The odd ice-free area was first spotted in the 1970s in the midst of the harsh Antarctic winter, despite frigid temperatures - and now, 40 years after it closed, the so-called Weddell Polynya has returned.

In recent studies, SOCCOM-affiliated researchers have used climate models to explore why these polynyas form and how they affect ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns. "We're still trying to figure out what's going on", Moore said. The Weddell Sea polynya is like "an oasis" for Antarctic sea mammals, says scientist Kent Moore. This nearly twice the size of the Netherlands and marginally smaller than Ireland. Instead, the Weddel Polynya can be pinned to water stratification in the Southern Ocean, according to scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research who closely following its development.

'A very cold but relatively fresh water layer covers a much warmer and saltier water mass, thus acting as an insulating layer.

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"We expect to see changes in the ocean, but it may take several years to see exactly how large those changes are and what impact they would have". Back then, the opening was as large as Oregon.

One of the biggest reason as to why this polynya remains so mysterious is that it's quite hard to explore such areas. Polynyas are a region of open water surrounded by sea ice. Moore says it would be "premature" to connect it to climate change, though his team is analyzing data to better understand what could have caused this.

"Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system. The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system", Latif said.

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