Massive hole reopens in Antarctic sea ice

13 October, 2017, 00:40 | Author: Ora Austin
  • A Giant Mysterious Hole Has Emerged In Antarctica And Scientists Still Don't Know The Reason

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.

The Weddell Sea polynya is shown as it appeared in passive microwave satellite imagery in the 1970s.

Scientists first reported about its existence in the early '70s, and during that time it opened up for three consecutive winters. This means that whatever is causing it has some sort of repetitive nature, which could help scientists uncover what is happening.

Since the hole continually exposes the water to the atmosphere above, it is hard for new ice layers to form. A similar one appeared a year ago as well, though not as big.

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Many climate scientists thought that, based on their theories of climate change, the formation of this deep-sea polynya would not form again in the Antarctic.

"For us this ice-free area is an important new data point which we can use to validate our climate models", said Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel. Last month, SOCCOM scientists were astonished to discover that a float in the Weddell Sea had surfaced inside the polynya, making contact with satellites in the dead of winter. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers. "On-site measurements in the Southern Ocean still require enormous efforts, so they are quite limited". "Denser, colder water sinks to the bottom of the ocean, while warmer water comes to the surface, which can keep the polynia open once it starts". Back then, the opening was as large as Oregon.

Simulated temperature development in the area of the polynya is illustrated above. Under certain conditions, the warm layer can rise to the top, which leads to the melting of ice on the surface. The polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack. 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. But scientists are denying to conclude that this has happened due to global warming. "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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