Friday, 24 November, 2017

Giant Hole Opens in Antarctic Ice Pack, and No One Knows Why

В Антарктиде обнаружена гигантская загадочная дыра Currently scientists investigate the circumstances and cause of its occurrence
Delores Daniels | 15 October, 2017, 01:32

The hole, which was detected about a month ago, is roughly 30,000 square miles or the size of the state of Maine.

"It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice", University of Toronto professor Kent Moore told Motherboard, adding that it was "quite remarkable".

A giant hole opened up in Antarctica, leaving scientists struggling to explain why and how it formed.

Ocean convection occurs in the polynya when warmer water comes to the surface and then melts the sea ice and prevents new ice from forming. It's the largest hole spotted in the Weddell Sea since the 1970s, scientists say. "It is now used as a geographical term for an area of unfrozen sea within the ice pack".

The hole was detected using a robotic float that's capable of operating underneath sea ice.

Satellite images further confirmed its appearance.

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 previous year. Then it disappeared for 40 years, Moore said, only to reappear for three weeks in 2016.

Wonderful how the #WeddellPolynya withstands / stears the local #SeaIce dynamic.

The research has not yet appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, as the satellite images were just taken in September, according to University of Tornonto - Mississauga spokeswoman Nicolle Wahl. 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. Moore also said the polynya can't be blamed on climate change since they don't know what's causing the hole to form.

"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, told Earther.

Scientists have been tracking large-scale changes in the Antarctic ice sheet in recent decades, but these changes are usually the result of known processes. 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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