Mysterious hole the size of ME opens in Antarctica
Oct 12 2017 by Michele Stevens
A giant hole as large as the state of ME has opened up in Antarctica's Weddell Sea for the second year in a row, confusing scientists due to its unusual characteristics. They appeared in Antarctica in the 1970s, but disappeared for decades before reopening last year for a brief period and again this year. 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.
Martin says that the re-appearance of the hole at this time confirms the center's previous calculations; GEOMAR has posited a model that explains the polynya as part of natural climate processes.
Although it's safe to assume that this massive hole in sea ice is connected to the climate change, however, that may not be the case.
The odd ice-free area was first spotted in the 1970s in the midst of the harsh Antarctic winter, despite frigid temperatures - and now, 40 years after it closed, the so-called Weddell Polynya has returned.
'It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice, ' atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, told Motherboard. Some American scientists think that this polynya will never re-appear, as melting ice and more precipitation in the air separates the surface ice sheet from deeper layers of water. He said:"This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge".
"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there", Moore said.
It's larger than The Netherlands, and almost the size of Lake Superior. "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".
Simulated temperature development in the area of the polynya is illustrated above. Then it reappeared in 2016, and astonishingly, it again came back this year and its size was even larger than last year.
What is clear is that climate change does have an impact on the structure of the Antarctic Ocean.
Moore has been working with the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project at Princeton University to monitor the area with satellite technology. 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", he says.