Published: Thu, October 12, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

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

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

A mysterious hole the size of ME has opened up in Antarctica, stumping scientists who have no clue how it formed. This is the second year that a polynya formed, though last year's hole was not as big. Scientists measured that the huge sea ice hole or polynya is nearly 80,000 square kilometers at its peak- a little bigger than New Brunswick and a bit smaller than the island of Newfoundland.

However, the recently discovered polynya is "deep in the ice pack", which is rather unusual, Moore said. "It's just remarkable that this polynya went away for 40 years and then came back".

A robotic float has been deployed to study the polynya's measurements, which lies hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge.

A vast hole has re-opened in Antarctica, and it could have something to teach us about climate change. The polynya's occurrence confirms what scientists had previously calculated, and they want to know what made the hole reopen for two years in a row after four decades of not being there. Some American scientists think that this polynya will never re-appear, as melting ice and more precipitation in the air separates the surface ice sheet from deeper layers of water. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers.

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Aerial view of the polynya in the Southern Ocean. "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. As that water becomes colder and denser, it sinks and thus allows more warm water to rise above and keep the hole open.

Simulated temperature development in the area of the polynya is illustrated above. The polynya was observed in the same region in the 1970's, then disappeared and appeared on a few weeks back previous year. 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, ' Latif says.

What is clear is that climate change does have an impact on the structure of the Antarctic Ocean. "We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".

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