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MASSIVE Hole Opens Up In Antarctica As Scientists Scramble for Answers

Mysterious hole the size of Lake Superior

By: Daniel Newton  |@NeonNettle
 on 11th October 2017 @ 12.58pm
the mysterious hole has been described as  quite remarkable  by atmospheric physicist kent moore © press
The mysterious hole has been described as 'quite remarkable' by atmospheric physicist Kent Moore

A massive hole the size of Lake Superior or the state of Maine has suddenly opened up in Antarctica leaving scientists baffled to why it's there.

The mysterious hole has been described as "quite remarkable" by " atmospheric physicist Kent Moore who is a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus.

"It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice," Moore added.

"This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there."

Areas of open water near sea ice are known as 'polynias' which form in coastal regions of Antarctica according to Moore. What is strange about this one is the polynia is "deep in the ice pack," and must have formed through other processes.

areas of open water near sea ice are known as  polynias  which form in coastal regions © press
Areas of open water near sea ice are known as 'polynias' which form in coastal regions

According To motherboard: A polynia was observed in the same location, in Antarctica's Weddell Sea, in the 1970s, according to Moore, who's been working with the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group, based at Princeton University, to analyze what's going on.

Back then, scientists' observation tools weren't nearly as good, so that hole remained largely unstudied. Then it went away for four decades, until last year, when it reopened for a few weeks. Now it's back again.

"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said. (It opened around September 9.) "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."

an image of the hole in the sea ice  image  modis aqua via nasa worldview  sea ice contours from amsr2 asi via university of bremen © press
An image of the hole in the sea ice. Image: MODIS-Aqua via NASA Worldview; sea ice contours from AMSR2 ASI via University of Bremen

It's tempting to blame this strange hole on climate change, which is reshaping so much of the world, including Antarctica. But Moore said that's "premature." Scientists can say with certainty, though, that the polynia will have a wider impact on the oceans.

"Once the sea ice melts back, you have this huge temperature contrast between the ocean and the atmosphere," Moore explained. "It can start driving convection." Denser, colder water sinks to the bottom of the ocean, while warmer water comes to the surface, "which can keep the polynia open once it starts," he said.

Using observations from satellites and deep sea robots, Moore and his collaborators are working on as-yet-unpublished research that aims to answer some of these questions. "Compared to 40 years ago, the amount of data we have is amazing," he said.

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