Science

In Antarctica there was a mysterious giant hole

In Antarctica there was a mysterious giant hole

A vast hole has re-opened in Antarctica, and it could have something to teach us about climate change.

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.

A robotic float has been deployed to study the polynya's measurements, which lies hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge.

A giant hole has opened up in Antarctica. 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.

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. The polynya re-emerged at the same point in Antarctica again in August 2016, significantly smaller in size than what it was in the 1970s.

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Known as polynyas or semipermanent area of open water in sea ice, this Weddell polynya is quite mysterious in terms of its origin.

It's larger than The Netherlands, and almost the size of Lake Superior. According to Moore, the hole is a result of other processes that aren't understood yet.

'The Southern Ocean is strongly stratified, ' says Professor Dr Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR. "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". "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.

One of the biggest reason as to why this polynya remains so mysterious is that it's quite hard to explore such areas.

Usually, a very cold but fresh layer of water covers a warmer and saltier layer of water, acting as insulation. A more thorough and prolonged research would reveal the real reason behind the huge hole. Then it wasn't seen for four decades, reopened for a few weeks past year and has emerged yet again. But scientists are denying to conclude that this has happened due to global warming. "We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".


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