February 20, 2018

A Hole the Size of Switzerland Just Opened Up Antarctica's Sea Ice

14 October 2017, 12:35 | Rufus Hill

Gaping hole larger than the Netherlands opens up in icy sea off Antarctica

Mystery of the massive hole nearly the size of Maine that has opened up in the sea ice around Antarctica

So the appearance of the hole-or polynya, as this type of phenomenon is called-is of interest to climate scientists and other observers. After that, it disappeared and didn't re-emerge for decades.

This particular polynia has also appeared in this location twice before, once a year ago and once in the 1970s. Because there is a 40-year span between the last time this happened, there's no clear pattern for scientists to follow. The hole is as large as the state of ME and was first spotted around a month ago by scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project. In an otherwise thick layer of sea ice, still frozen from the Antarctic winter, the hole is an aberration.

Despite the fact that the exact reasons for the appearance of polynyas are still unknown, the mechanism of its formation is approximately comprehensible, the N + 1 site specifies.

Holes in the ice are common enough that there's a name for them: polynias, borrowed from the Russian word for water surrounded by sea ice.

After closing back up, and remaining that way for roughly 40 years, it has re-opened. Then it reheats in deeper areas, allowing the cycle to continue. 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.

The Southern Ocean of Antarctica has very deep waters which is warmer and saltier than the surface water.

Polyna is very elusive and hard to study because of the harsh winter in Antarctica. A professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, he warned it was too soon to attribute the mysterious hole to global warming.

Also Read: NASA astronauts fix "new eyes" to International Space Station, why?

A team that includes researchers from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group at Princeton University are monitoring the area with satellite technology and using robotic floats that are capable of operating under sea ice to finally shed some light on the polynya and their impact on the climate. Now that it is back, scientists have more sophisticated resources that enable them to improve their observations.

That robot has already begun sending the data, which is being processed by the scientists.

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