Massive Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica

Massive Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica

Massive Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica

Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist and a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, says that it looks like a hole punched in the ice.

At its largest the polynya measured 80,000 kilometres - making it larger than the Netherlands and roughly the same size as the US state of Maine.

The polynya went away for forty years and reopened in September 2016 for a few weeks.

The opening is called a polynya, a term that defines open water surrounded by ice.

"This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge". Preconditioning of the Weddell Sea polynya by the ocean mesoscale and dense water overflows.

"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there", Moore said, adding that scientists were still trying to determine "what's going on".

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Researchers, including a group at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, have been closely monitoring the polynya since it first reappeared in the satellite data.

"The fact that now a large, ice-free area can be observed in the Weddell Sea confirms our theory and gives us another data point for further model studies", said Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler at GEOMAR.

The cooling of the warmer ocean water when it reaches the surface may also have a broader impact on the ocean's temperature, but Moore says outside of local weather effects, scientists aren't sure what this polynya will mean for Antarctica's oceans and climate, and whether it is related to climate change.

It's larger than The Netherlands, and almost the size of Lake Superior. Dr. Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR, in a public statement.

Scientists believe the polynya is formed because of the deep water in the Southern Ocean being warmer and saltier than the surface water.

"Once the sea ice melts back, you have this huge temperature contrast between the ocean and the atmosphere".

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Still, it's unclear how often the Weddell Polynya re-emerges, and how long it will linger now that it's opened back up.

Moore says they are working to understand what is triggering the formation of these holes again after so many years.

The hole was discovered by researchers about a month ago.

"Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system".

'The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system'.

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