Hole The Size Of Maine Opens In Antarctica Ice

Hole The Size Of Maine Opens In Antarctica Ice

A huge hole almost the size of the state of ME has opened up in the thick sea ice blanketing Antarctica's Weddell Sea.

The hole has an area of approximately 80,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles), and is as large as Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes of North America, or the state of Maine.

Moore also warned against "prematurely" blaming the formation of the hole on climate change.

Some 40 years after satellites observed a wintertime gap in the ice of the Weddell Sea near the Antarctic Peninsula, the phenomenon has returned; and it comprises an area larger than Maryland.

Actually, this type of phenomena can be termed as polynya- an area of open water completely enclosed by sea ice.

"We are still trying to understand what is happening", said Kent Moore of the University of Toronto. It's the largest polynya to open in the Weddell Sea since the 1970s. He added that this polynya is deep in the ice pack and it is a couple of hundreds of kilometers away from the coast. 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.

It's larger than The Netherlands, and almost the size of Lake Superior. "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", said Prof.

The deep water in that part of the Southern Ocean is warmer and saltier than the surface water.

The hole was discovered by researchers about a month ago.

One of the biggest reason as to why this polynya remains so mysterious is that it's quite hard to explore such areas. The team, comprised of scientists from the University of Toronto and the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) project, was monitoring the area with satellite technology after a similar hole opened a year ago. The polynya was observed in the same region in the 1970's, then disappeared and appeared on a few weeks back past year.

'Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system, ' Latif says. "We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".

What is not fully known, however, is how climate change might affect this process.