Mystery hole found in Antarctica's ice cover as big as West Bengal

The polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack.

A mysterious hole as large as the state of ME has opened up in Antarctica's sea ice cover and it is baffling researchers. As per the report, the largest estimates of the hole's current size put it around 80,000 square kilometers.

The unusual ice-free area was first spotted in the 1970s in the midst of the harsh Antarctic winter, despite frigid temperatures - and now, 40 years after it closed, the so-called Weddell Polynya has returned. Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist and a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, says that it looks like a hole punched in the ice.

Scientists recognize two types of such Antarctic sea ice features, and the main difference between them is the way in which they lose their ice.

Read the full story at USA Today.

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

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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.

The harsh winter in Antarctica makes it hard to find holes like this one, so it can be difficult to study them.

Some scientists speculate that the formation of the Weddell polynya is part of a cyclical process, though the details are unclear. In certain conditions, however, the warm water can rise to the surface, melting the ice. When the warmer water cools, on contact with the frigid temperatures in the atmosphere, it sinks.

'This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there, ' Moore explained.

A polynya allows heat to escape the ocean, cooling the top layer of the sea water.

Lead Image: Winter sea ice blankets the Weddell Sea around Antarctica with massive extra-tropical cyclones hovering over the Southern Ocean in this satellite image from September 25, 2017. The hole opened up again previous year for the first time in four decades, and reappeared, even larger, last month.


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