Sunday, 19 November, 2017

Hole in Antarctica Ice the Size of Maine Opens Up, But Why?

Gigantic Mystery Hole Opens in Antarctica, Are the Aliens Here? Giant Hole Opens in Antarctic Ice Pack, and No One Knows Why
Wilma Wheeler | 14 October, 2017, 00:33

Such ice-free areas are called 'polynya' (Russian) by polar scientists.

A mysterious "hole" larger than Maryland has reappeared in the middle of Antarctica after 42 years. It's odd for one very good reason: while most polynyas occur near coastlines, the Weddell is far inland and relatively sheltered from the violent winds and turbulent seas that generally cause them. According to reports, satellite images helped spot this unexpected formation, which is believed to be around a month old, possibly more.

A team that includes researchers from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group at Princeton University are monitoring the area with satellite technology and using robotic floats that are capable of operating under sea ice to finally shed some light on the polynya and their impact on the climate. "It's just remarkable that this polynya went away for 40 years and then came back".

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.

One expert said it was like someone had punched a hole in the ice. While it wasn't seen for decades after 1976, it reappeared in August previous year.

The going theory on what caused it has to do with water currents and a flow of warmer water rising up and melting the ice.

The Southern Ocean has a fairly layered structure, and above the layer of warmer and salt water is a layer of cold and relatively fresh water. "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".

'The Southern Ocean is strongly stratified, ' says Professor Dr Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR.

What is clear is that climate change does have an impact on the structure of the Antarctic Ocean. Now polynya opened again on 9 September.

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

"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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