Huge, 'mysterious' hole appears in sea ice near Antarctica

Massive hole opens up in Antarctica, puzzling scientists

While this phenomenon is quite common in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, this particular one is without any reason or rationale behind its origin.

As the researchers note, often area of open sea surrounded by ice, known as polynyas, formed relatively close to the border of the ice and the sea. 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. A giant hole the size of Lake Superior has opened up in the ice, and scientists aren't sure exactly what is causing it. Perhaps we'll have the answers before the hole fills in again. After that, it disappeared and didn't re-emerge for decades. This is the second year in a row that a polynya has formed, although last year's hole was not as large. This year, the mysterious hole has appeared and is even bigger in size. In case of this giant hole, it is unusual that it has formed "deep in the ice pack".

"Why was the Weddell polynya present in the 1970s, and then absent until its recent reappearance?" The polynya was observed in the same region in the 1970's, then disappeared and appeared on a few weeks back past year. Then it reheats in deeper areas, allowing the cycle to continue.

Many experts have said that what actually could have happened is that warm salt water from deep under the ice could have managed to squeeze its way through the colder layer of fresh water thus ultimately melting the layer of ice that covers it.

However, the harsh winter conditions in Antarctica are making it hard for the researchers to directly observe polynyas and their impacts on the atmosphere.

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Scientific reference: Mojib Latif et al, Southern Ocean Decadal Variability and Predictability, Current Climate Change Reports (2017).

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.

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