A mysterious hole as big as the state of ME has been spotted in Antarctica's winter sea ice cover. This isn't the first time it's been spotted, having appeared past year for a brief period as well, and long before that it was detected back in the 1970s.
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. In case of this giant hole, it is unusual that it has formed "deep in the ice pack".
The global warming phenomenon is also in play but scientists aren't sure what this polynya will mean for Antarctica's oceans and climate, and whether climate change effects it at all. Did the Weddell polynya occur before 1970, and we are looking at a periodic process that shows itself about every 40 years? He said:"This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge". 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.
"It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice", atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, explained. The polynya's occurrence confirms what scientists had previously calculated, and they want to know what made the hole reopen for two years in a row after four decades of not being there. He added that the polynya could stay open as the colder water reaches the bottom of the ocean and pushes warmer water to the surface. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers. "A very cold but relatively fresh water layer covers a much warmer and saltier water mass, thus acting as an insulating layer", Prof. A more thorough and prolonged research would reveal the real reason behind the huge hole.
Simulated temperature development in the area of the polynya is illustrated above. A team comprised of scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project found the hole during one of the monitoring exercises with the help of satellite technology. The polynya was observed in the same region in the 1970's, then disappeared and appeared on a few weeks back previous year. "The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system", Latif said.
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