A Giant Hole Just Appeared in Antarctica

Image Credit NASA Worldview University of Bremen

Researchers are stumped by the appearance of the new hole because it is "deep in the ice pack", Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist at University of Toronto Mississauga, told the website. According to satellite imagery, it appeared in the same place as it did forty years ago.

Named as a "polynya", this is usually found in coastal regions of Antarctica, but this hole is far from the edge where the ice is much thicker.

However, this is not the first time that this particular hole has emerged in Antarctica.

The harsh winter in Antarctica makes it hard to find holes like this one, so it can be difficult to study them.

A preliminary analysis run by American scientists suggests that the Weddell Polynya should not occur again because of climate change at all.

The unusual 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. An enormous hole in Antarctica's sea ice could help solve a climate riddle. The Weddell Sea polynya is like "an oasis" for Antarctic sea mammals, says scientist Kent Moore. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers. 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. "In some cases, the high-density surface water mixes with other masses and sinks all the way to the ocean bottom", the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) explained. "On-site measurements in the Southern Ocean still require enormous efforts, so they are quite limited". "This is like opening a pressure relief valve-the ocean then releases a surplus of heat to the atmosphere for several consecutive winters until the heat reservoir is exhausted", Latif said. Under certain conditions, the warm layer can rise to the top, which leads to the melting of ice on the surface. Then it wasn't seen for four decades, reopened for a few weeks previous year and has emerged yet again.

Climate change, which is impacting Antarctica and the rest of the world, is possibly responsible for this mysterious hole, but Moore said that blaming global warming for this phenomenon is premature. "We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".

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