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12 October 2017, 02:11 | Dale Webster
Massive Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica (Report)
A massive hole called a polynya opened in Antarctica's Weddell Sea last month, a odd occurrence as polynyas typically don't develop deep in the ice pack, Motherboard reports. This isn't the first time it's been spotted, having appeared a year ago for a brief period as well, and long before that it was detected back in the 1970s.
Known as a polynya, this year's hole was about 30,000 square miles at its largest, making it the biggest polynya observed in Antarctica's Weddell Sea since the 1970s.
"At that time, the scientific community had just launched the first satellites that provided images of the sea-ice cover from space", said Torge Martin, a meteorologist and climate modeler, as quoted by Phys.org.
The blue curves represent the ice edge.
Actually, this type of phenomena can be termed as polynya- an area of open water completely enclosed by sea ice. "In the depths of winter, for more than a month, we've had this area of open water", Kent Moore, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Toronto, told National Geographic.
'This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there, ' Moore explained.
It's not clear at this point if the ice hole is influenced in any way by climate change. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers.
Scientists weren't expecting the polynya to re-appear, and aren't sure why it has resurfaced twice in the past two years. "This is like opening a pressure relief valve-the ocean then releases a surplus of heat to the atmosphere for several consecutive winters until the heat reservoir is exhausted", Latif said.
Simulated temperature development in the area of the polynya is illustrated above.
The polynya went away for forty years and reopened in September 2016 for a few weeks. A team comprised of scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project found the hole during one of the monitoring exercises with the help of satellite technology.
"Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system. We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".
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.
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