Giant Hole Opens in Antarctic Ice Pack, and No One Knows Why

Giant Hole Opens in Antarctic Ice Pack, and No One Knows Why

The hole measures some 30,000 square miles - almost the size of SC.

Kent Moore, who is the atmospheric physicist of the University of Toronto told to Vice's Motherboard that "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice".

Now, a massive hole the size of Lake Superior has appeared many miles inland from where the ice meets the ocean, and scientists have little concrete explanation as to why it's there.

At its largest the polynya measured 80,000 kilometres - making it larger than the Netherlands and roughly the same size as the USA state of Maine. Ocean convection occurs in the polynya by bringing warmer water to the surface, which then melts the sea ice and prevents new ice from forming.

Satellite images further confirmed its appearance.

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.




"It's just remarkable that this polynya went away for 40 years and then came back", Moore said. Winds can't seem to close it.

However, the recently discovered polynya is "deep in the ice pack", which is rather unusual, Moore said. Scientists can not explain why the mystery hole has appeared again after 40-years, but they have better technology to study it this time around.

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

In this satellite image of the Weddell Sea polynya taken on September 21, 2017, blue represents the ice's edge.

Moore also warned against "prematurely" blaming the formation of the hole on climate change. And this week, a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that warming oceans are dramatically undermining the integrity of an important floating ice shelf in West Antarctica, Quartz magazine reported.

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