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Massive Hole Appears In Antarctic Ice and Scientists Aren't Sure Why
12 October 2017, 02:10 | Justin Tyler
Scientists are uncertain what caused the appearance of a large hole in the Antarctic sea ice
A giant hole has opened up in Antarctica that could possibly be as big as the state of ME (91,646 km²) and Lake Superior (82,103 km²). Also, despite being exposed to freezing chilly winds during the last month, this polynya has continued to persist, which means whatever force caused the hole to form is strong enough to keep it from refreezing. 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. Intriguingly, this polynya is located extremely far from the sea ice coastline, where these kinds of openings usually appear.
Blaming climate change for this giant hole is one alternative that the scientists have but according to Moore, that would be a premature thing. "It's just remarkable that this polynya went away for 40 years and then came back".
"In the depths of winter, for more than a month, we've had this area of open water", says Kent Moore, professor of physics at the University of Toronto.
A "polynya" is a large ice-free area that develops in an otherwise frozen sea; the features are commonly seen in both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice.
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. 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. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers. Then it reheats in deeper areas, allowing the cycle to continue.
One of the biggest reason as to why this polynya remains so mysterious is that it's quite hard to explore such areas. Then it wasn't seen for four decades, reopened for a few weeks previous year and has emerged yet again.
Working with the Princeton-based Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group, Moore and his colleagues are using observations from deep-sea robots and satellites to study the phenomenon, which in the 1970s was first detected on the same site.
"Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system".
'The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system'.
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