Huge Hole Opens Up in Antarctica, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

Huge Hole Opens Up in Antarctica, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

Huge Hole Opens Up in Antarctica, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

In their observations, it has fluctuated in size up to a maximum of almost 80,000 square kilometers. University of Toronto Mississauga professor Kent Moore told Motherboard that the hole is "quite remarkable", but scientists still can't figure out how or why that it has happened again.

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. The phenomenon is known as a polynya - an area of open water where sea ice should be, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

Moore told Vice that scientists observed a similar polynya in the Weddell Sea in the 1970s, but they hadn't seen it again until a year ago. "It is now used as a geographical term for an area of unfrozen sea within the ice pack".

Scientists recognize two types of such Antarctic sea ice features, and the main difference between them is the way in which they lose their ice.

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The second type of polynyas is latent-heat ones.

The hole, known as a polynya, was discovered about a month ago in Antartica's Weddell Sea as a team of scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project used satellite technology to monitor a similar, much smaller, hole that opened past year. Winds can't seem to close it. However, the researchers are submitting this work to the British journal Nature, she said.

Scientists believe the polynya is formed because of the deep water in the Southern Ocean being warmer and saltier than the surface water. A similar one appeared previous year as well, though not as big. It's the largest polynya to open in the Weddell Sea since the 1970s. Moore says it would be "premature" to connect it to climate change, though his team is analyzing data to better understand what could have caused this. 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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