In Antarctica there was a mysterious giant hole

Oct 14, 2017, 00:34
In Antarctica there was a mysterious giant hole

According to researchers from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, who first discovered the polymya, it is now in the middle of the winter season in Antarctica and the Weddell Sea is usually covered by a thick layer of sea ice.

At this time of year, the area is usually coated in thick ice.

"In the depths of winter, for more than a month, we've had this area of open water", Kent Moore, professor of physics at the University of Toronto, told National Geographic.

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. It was the first sighting of the polynya in over 40 years. In addition, scientists hope that in the near future it will be possible to simulate such a system with the help of computer simulation.

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Ocean convection occurs within the polynya bringing warmer water to the surface that melts the sea ice and prevents new ice from forming. Scientists aren't sure how it got there.

Moore, along with the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group at Princeton, are studying the mysterious hole, which showed up in satellite images around September 9. 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. The warm water can keep the ice from reforming, but once it cools, it goes to the bottom, allowing the cycle to continue. Because there is a 40-year span between the last time this happened, there's no clear pattern for scientists to follow. Dr. Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR, in a public statement. "We're still trying to figure out what's going on", Moore said. Due to higher precipitation levels in the region and melting ice, the surface is expected to decouple from deeper water layers. Moore also said the polynya can't be blamed on climate change since they don't know what's causing the hole to form.

At its largest extent, this winter's polynya had an area of open water close to 80,000 square kilometres (km2), he said.

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

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