Giant Hole in Antarctica Remains Unexplained

  • Giant Hole in Antarctica Remains Unexplained

Giant Hole in Antarctica Remains Unexplained

As the researchers note, often area of open sea surrounded by ice, known as polynyas, formed relatively close to the border of the ice and the sea.

A "polynya" is a large ice-free area that develops in an otherwise frozen sea, and this particular formation is situated in the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula. Experts believe that the Weddell polynya might a part of some cyclical process but they lack clear details. According to satellite imagery, it appeared in the same place as it did forty years ago. If it were not for the satellite, we would not have found out that it is there, "said physicist Kent Moore, professor at the University of Toronto".

Known as a polynya, this year's hole was about 30,000 square miles at its largest, making it the biggest polynya observed in Antarctica's Weddell Sea since the 1970s.

However, an worldwide team of scientists have discovered the mysterious, 80,000 square foot hole the size of Lake Superior, making it the biggest polynya observed in Antarctica's Weddell Sea, which has researchers confounded.

At this time of year, the area is usually coated in thick ice.

A polynya allows heat to escape the ocean, cooling the top layer of the sea water.

"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there". "While many climate models tend to produce such a large open ocean polynya, the feature was viewed more as a disruptive model glitch than a true phenomenon in the past", Torge Martin, a meteorologist and climate modeler at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, said.

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of a polynya off the coast of Antarctica, near Ross Island and McMurdo Station on November 16, 2011.

"There's a bit of a mystery going on in Antarctica at the moment", said Céline Heuzé, a physical oceanographer at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, to Earther. Dr. Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR, in a public statement. Ocean currents bring the warmer water upwards, where it melts the blankets of ice that had formed on the ocean's surface.

The scientists aren't sure what has caused this polynya to return.

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