Huge, 'mysterious' hole appears in sea ice near Antarctica

Temperatures are in their usual frigid range for this time of year.

This cycle could repeat for the rest of the winter, Kent Moore, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto told CBC's "As It Happens."

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Although it's safe to assume that this massive hole in sea ice is connected to the climate change, however, that may not be the case. Did the Weddell polynya occur before 1970, and we are looking at a periodic process that shows itself about every 40 years? According to reports, satellite images helped spot this unexpected formation, which is believed to be around a month old, possibly more.

Known as polynyas or semipermanent area of open water in sea ice, this Weddell polynya is quite mysterious in terms of its origin. Also, despite being exposed to freezing chilly winds during the last month, this polynya has continued to persist, which means whatever force caused the hole to form is strong enough to keep it from refreezing. This is a sea ice feature which basically gives a name to open areas of water that should have normally been covered by ice. Then it wasn't seen for four decades, reopened for a few weeks a year ago and has emerged yet again. Instead, the Weddel Polynya can be pinned to water stratification in the Southern Ocean, according to scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research who closely following its development.

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'A very cold but relatively fresh water layer covers a much warmer and saltier water mass, thus acting as an insulating layer.

Since the hole continually exposes the water to the atmosphere above, it is hard for new ice layers to form. Dr. Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR. "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", Latif said. Due to higher precipitation levels in the region and melting ice, the surface is expected to decouple from deeper water layers.

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Martin says that the re-appearance of the hole at this time confirms the center's previous calculations; GEOMAR has posited a model that explains the polynya as part of natural climate processes. "We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".


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