Massive Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica


A massive hole called a polynya opened in Antarctica's Weddell Sea last month, a unusual occurrence as polynyas typically don't develop deep in the ice pack, Motherboard reports.

Actually, this type of phenomena can be termed as polynya- an area of open water completely enclosed by sea ice.

The hole, which is called a polynya, is incredibly puzzling because of its odd behavior.

A giant hole has opened up in Antarctica.

Satellite image of the polynya. The hole had again reappeared during the austral winters of 1975 and 1976. The polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack. This isn't the first time it's been spotted, having appeared previous year for a brief period as well, and long before that it was detected back in the 1970s. At its peak, the Weddell Polynya measured 31,000 square miles, which is larger than the Netherlands and almost the size of the state of Maine. Still, it's far smaller than its 1970s version, which had reached 300,000 square kilometers.

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A vast hole has re-opened in Antarctica, and it could have something to teach us about climate change. Experts believe that the Weddell polynya might a part of some cyclical process but they lack clear details.

Aerial view of the Weddell polynya.

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.

Scientists believe the polynya is formed because of the deep water in the Southern Ocean being warmer and saltier than the surface water. In certain conditions, however, the warm water can rise to the surface, melting the ice. According to NASA, that sinking water contributes to the cold water mass, known as Antarctic Bottom Water, which feeds into deep ocean currents and contributes to ocean circulation around the globe. "It allows a significant amount of heat to escape to the winter atmosphere, where air temperatures are thought to hover around minus 20 degrees Celsius".

Also Read: NASA astronauts fix "new eyes" to International Space Station, why? "On-site measurements in the Southern Ocean still require enormous efforts, so they are quite limited". The team, comprised of scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) project, was monitoring the area with satellite technology after a similar hole opened past year.