Huge, 'mysterious' hole appears in sea ice near Antarctica

A Giant Mysterious Hole Has Emerged In Antarctica And Scientists Still Don't Know The Reason

The hole measures some 30,000 square miles - almost the size of SC.

Located in the Weddell Sea, scientists discovered the South Carolina-sized hole about a month ago, according to National Geographic. The hole, known as a polynya, is a odd phenomenon where a region of open water shows up in the middle of the sea ice in the Arctic and Southern Oceans. Scientists aren't sure how it got there.

Many experts have said that what actually could have happened is that warm salt water from deep under the ice could have managed to squeeze its way through the colder layer of fresh water thus ultimately melting the layer of ice that covers it. Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist and a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, says that it looks like a hole punched in the ice. According to NASA Earth Observatory, scientists had observed a similar polynya and that too in the same area in 1974.

Researchers, including a group at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, have been closely monitoring the polynya since it first reappeared in the satellite data. A similar one appeared previous year as well, though not as big. Ocean convection occurs in the polynya by bringing warmer water to the surface, which then melts the sea ice and prevents new ice from forming. As the surface water comes into contact with the Antarctic atmosphere, it cools and sinks, then heats up again and rises back toward the surface.

A polynya allows heat to escape the ocean, cooling the top layer of the sea water. Moore also said the polynya can't be blamed on climate change since they don't know what's causing the hole to form.

The vast hole opened up several hundred kilometres across the area of about 80,000 square kilometres - but this feature remains a mystery to researchers. Now polynya opened again on 9 September.

"For us this ice-free area is an important new data point which we can use to validate our climate models", Torge Martin, Ph.D., a meteorologist and climate modeler for GEOMAR, said in a statement.

The odd 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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