Giant hole the size of ME reopens in Antarctica's Weddell Sea

13 October, 2017, 00:39 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • The polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack

Moore told Vice: "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice". According to satellite imagery, it appeared in the same place as it did forty years ago.

Known as polynyas or semipermanent area of open water in sea ice, this Weddell polynya is quite mysterious in terms of its origin. Now that it is back, scientists have more sophisticated resources that enable them to improve their observations.

In this satellite image of the Weddell Sea polynya taken on September 21, 2017, blue represents the ice's edge.

A preliminary analysis run by American scientists suggests that the Weddell Polynya should not occur again because of climate change at all.

In the year 1970, A polynia was observed in the same location, in Antarctica's Weddell Sea but at that time observation tools weren't almost as good, so that hole remained largely unstudied. Moore said that this giant hole has been open for four months so far and he guessed that it would stay open for rest of the winter.

"This one is deep in the ice pack".

The unusual 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.

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A polynya typically forms farther offshore, driven by the upwelling of warm water according to NASA. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers.

The Southern Ocean has a fairly layered structure, and above the layer of warmer and salt water is a layer of cold and relatively fresh water.

'The Southern Ocean is strongly stratified, ' says Professor Dr Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR.

One of the biggest reason as to why this polynya remains so mysterious is that it's quite hard to explore such areas.

Still, it's unclear how often the Weddell Polynya re-emerges, and how long it will linger now that it's opened back up. Due to higher precipitation levels in the region and melting ice, the surface is expected to decouple from deeper water layers.

Experts say it's too early to know how climate change has affected the formation of the huge polynya, if it's to blame at all.

"Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system".

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