Mystery hole found in Antarctica's ice cover as big as West Bengal

Saul Bowman
October 13, 2017

He said:"This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge".

But researchers caution that it would be "premature" to blame it on climate change. It's not clear at this point if the ice hole is influenced in any way by climate change. "Its recurrence supports our hypothesis... that the Weddell Polynya was not a one-time event but possibly occurred regularly in the past". The Weddell Sea polynya is like "an oasis" for Antarctic sea mammals, says scientist Kent Moore.

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.

"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.


Forty years after the first observation of the polynia in the sea, the Weddell did not open, and now it is the second year in a row that has opened.

The Weddell Sea polynya is shown as it appeared in passive microwave satellite imagery in the 1970s. Instead, the Weddel Polynya can be pinned to water stratification in the Southern Ocean, according to scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research who closely following its development. This nearly twice the size of the Netherlands and marginally smaller than Ireland. He added that the polynya could stay open as the colder water reaches the bottom of the ocean and pushes warmer water to the surface. Back then, the opening was as large as Oregon. However, it disappeared for several decades before showing back up, throwing a huge kink in many scientific explanations for its existence.

One of the biggest reason as to why this polynya remains so mysterious is that it's quite hard to explore such areas. However, previous other studies which applied the "Kiel Climate Model" found that polynya is part of a long-term naturally varying process, which can only mean the hole will open again sooner or later.

The going theory on what caused it has to do with water currents and a flow of warmer water rising up and melting the ice. "The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system", Latif said. Sometimes, the scientists reveal some good news related to new discovery and some time they warn the world regarding the effect of climate change and global warming on Antarctica.

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