Mysterious hole the size of ME opens in Antarctica

Mysterious hole the size of ME opens in Antarctica

A robotic float, which was sent there for transmitting data from the Weddell Sea surprisingly surfaced inside the polynya last month, stated a news release from the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project at Princeton.

The hole was discovered by researchers about a month ago. The polynya was observed in the same region in the 1970's, then disappeared and appeared on a few weeks back past year.

The holes form in coastal regions of Antarctica, but what's unusal here is that this polynya is "deep in the ice pack", Moore says.

Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said that it is just like imagining that someone is in the middle of the Antarctic winter and he or she can see huge sea ice stretched as far as possible and suddenly while walking along, the person comes across this huge expanse of open water. At its peak, the Weddell Polynya measured 31,000 square miles, which is larger than the Netherlands and almost the size of the state of Maine. He added that the polynya could stay open as the colder water reaches the bottom of the ocean and pushes warmer water to the surface. Scientists measured that the huge sea ice hole or polynya is nearly 80,000 square kilometers at its peak- a little bigger than New Brunswick and a bit smaller than the island of Newfoundland. Scientists knew to monitor the area for polynyas this year because of last year's discovery.


A polynya allows heat to escape the ocean, cooling the top layer of the sea water. That melting created the polynya. When the warmer water cools, on contact with the frigid temperatures in the atmosphere, it sinks. He thinks it is likely that marine mammals could be using this new opening to breathe.

Moore also warned against "prematurely" blaming the formation of the hole on climate change.

Lead Image: Winter sea ice blankets the Weddell Sea around Antarctica with massive extra-tropical cyclones hovering over the Southern Ocean in this satellite image from September 25, 2017. However, previous other studies which applied the "Kiel Climate Model" found that polynya is part of a long-term naturally varying process, which can only mean the hole will open again sooner or later. "If there were earlier occurrences, there is no record of them", said Willy Weeks, a retired sea ice geophysicist from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, while commenting at the time of the polynya's re-emergence in 2016.

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