Mysterious ‘gigantic hole’ the size of Ireland opens up in Antarctica’s ice. Experts aren’t sure why

A strange, massive ice-free area, measuring approximately 31,000 square miles (approx. 80,290 square km) was recently spotted in Antarctica’s frozen sea ice. Scientists are still working to determine why the huge hole re-opened after almost 40 years, and whether climate change could have played a role.

Satellite images show a mysterious hole, nearly the size of the state of Maine or Ireland, has appeared once again in the middle of the frozen Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The finding was made last month by a group of researchers, including scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project, while observing the area with satellite technology.

“It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice,” Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, told Motherboard.

©NASA

The hole, known as a “polynya,” is a large ice-free area surrounded by sea ice. The Weddell Polynya was first discovered during the mid-1970s. The hole re-opened after it remained closed for around 40 years. A polynya was also formed last year, but it’s not as big as the one formed recently.

“In the depths of winter, for more than a month, we’ve had this area of open water,” said Moore, as National Geographic reported. “It’s just remarkable that this polynya went away for 40 years and then came back.”

©Twitter | Mark Drinkwater‏ 

Measured roughly 31,000 square miles at its largest, this polynya is the biggest hole ever observed in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea since the 1970s. What puzzled Moore is that this polynya is “deep in the ice pack,” and must have been formed through other unknown processes.

“This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn’t have a satellite, we wouldn’t know it was there,” Moore explained.

©Twitter | Mark Drinkwater‏ 

The harsh winter in Antarctica can also make it hard for researchers to study them.

“For us this ice-free area is an important data point which we can use to validate our climate models,” says Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler in the GEOMAR Research Division “Oceans Circulation and Climate Dynamics,” told MailOnline. “Its occurrence after several decades also confirms our previous calculations.”

©Twitter | Mark Drinkwater‏ 

Researchers are also trying to determine if the polynya is caused by climate change. And at this moment, Moore said it’s still “premature” to blame it on climate change. With more advanced observation tools compared to 40 years ago, researchers are hoping to find out what triggers the re-emergence of these holes.

“We’re still trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Moore.

©Twitter | Mark Drinkwater‏ 

However, they believe that the polynya will have a wider impact on the ocean’s temperature. “Once the sea ice melts back, you have this huge temperature contrast between the ocean and the atmosphere,” Moore said.

But, other than that, he added: “We don’t really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have.”

 
Have You Heard About This?

July 20 in pictures: Spiritual believers refuse to be silenced in the face of bloody murder

July 20 in pictures: Spiritual believers refuse to be silenced in the face of bloody murder
Almost two decades of relentless persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, who are subject to extreme vilification, harassment, ...
READ MORE >
 
Top Hot
After caring for special-needs children for 45 years, teacher leaves astounding legacy
After caring for special-needs children for 45 years, teacher leaves astounding legacy
Some people consider others first in everything they do, and they are indeed very special human beings. This ...
READ MORE >
Firefighter’s dramatic body cam footage shows caged dog being rescued during house fire
Firefighter’s dramatic body cam footage shows caged dog being rescued during house fire
A dramatic video has emerged from Stockton, California, of quick-thinking firefighters saving a dog enclosed in a backyard ...
READ MORE >
Firefighters save heart attack victim, then return to his house to finish his yard work
Firefighters save heart attack victim, then return to his house to finish his yard work
These firefighters went beyond the call of duty. After they responded to a call for help from the ...
READ MORE >
 
 
Story of Conviction
“Only God could change him.” This is what people said behind my back. I was a thief, a ...
READ MORE >
She suffered from severe asthma throughout her childhood, and later from debilitating attacks of near-paralysis. Yet, her ailments ...
READ MORE >
 
RELATED