Massive Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica

Adjust Comment Print

Scientists have discovered a hole as big as the state of ME or Lake Superior in the frozen ice of Antarctica's Weddell Sea, according to a report in the National Geographic. 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. 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.

The polynya went away for forty years and reopened in September 2016 for a few weeks.

The unusual 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.

At its largest the polynya measured 80,000 kilometres - making it larger than the Netherlands and roughly the same size as the US state of Maine.

At its peak, the Weddell Polynya measured a staggering 80,000 square kilometers (roughly 31,000 square miles). Until then, this hole in the ice will remain mysterious. The melting of sea ice causes a localized temperature contrast between the ocean and atmosphere, which drives a convection current.

'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'.

Researchers are monitoring the polynya, including a group at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling group based at Princeton University.

"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there", Moore said. Its new ocean measurements, transmitted when it surfaced, are being analyzed as part of a study in preparation on Weddell Sea polynyas.

"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

Blaming climate change for this giant hole is one alternative that the scientists have but according to Moore, that would be a premature thing.

But, with new observations using technology far more advanced than that available when it first appeared 40 years ago, they're hoping to uncover some answers.

Many will suspect this has something to do with climate change, which is the main culprit for numerous sea ice changes in Antarctica.