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Massive hole reopens in Antarctic sea ice

13 October, 2017, 00:39 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Mysterious Hole forms in Antarctica

A mysterious hole has been spotted in Antarctica's winter sea ice cover, which is as big as the Indian state of West Bengal. A more thorough and prolonged research would reveal the real reason behind the huge hole. The hole was about 80,000 square kilometres in diameter at its largest, making it the biggest ever polynya in Antarctica's Weddell Sea since the 1970s.

This cycle could repeat for the rest of the winter, Kent Moore, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto told CBC's "As It Happens."

After closing back up, and remaining that way for roughly 40 years, it has re-opened. This means that whatever is causing it has some sort of repetitive nature, which could help scientists uncover what is happening.

"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there".

Scientists weren't expecting the polynya to re-appear, and aren't sure why it has resurfaced twice in the past two years.




The current best guess is that warmer salt water from deep under the ice has managed to squeeze its way through the cold layer of fresh water that typically insulates it, causing a warm patch and ultimately melting the ice and forming a huge gap.

One expert said it was like someone had punched a hole in the ice. As the surface water comes into contact with the Antarctic atmosphere, it cools and sinks, then heats up again and rises back toward the surface. Then it reheats in deeper areas, allowing the cycle to continue. "In the depths of winter, for more than a month, we've had this area of open water", Kent Moore, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Toronto, told National Geographic. He thinks it is likely that marine mammals could be using this new opening to breathe. Sometimes, the scientists reveal some good news related to new discovery and some time they warn the world regarding the effect of climate change and global warming on Antarctica.

"We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have", he says.

A larger version of the hole was observed in satellite observations in the same area of Antarctica in 1974, and it reopened a year ago for a few weeks. The blue curves represent the ice edge.

Actually, this type of phenomena can be termed as polynya- an area of open water completely enclosed by sea ice.

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