Massive Giant Hole Larger Than The Netherlands Cracks Open In Antarctica

Representational Image

A similar hole opened previous year too.

It's the largest polynya to open in the Weddell Sea since the 1970s. It's not clear at this point if the ice hole is influenced in any way by climate change. Preconditioning of the Weddell Sea polynya by the ocean mesoscale and dense water overflows.

"Two of these events happening two years in a row really isn't a long enough kind of trend for us to say it's the result of global warming", Moore told CBC. According to NASA, that sinking water contributes to the cold water mass, known as Antarctic Bottom Water, which feeds into deep ocean currents and contributes to ocean circulation around the globe.

But, with new observations using technology far more advanced than that available when it first appeared 40 years ago, they're hoping to uncover some answers.

In this satellite image of the Weddell Sea polynya taken on September 21, 2017, blue represents the ice's edge.


A robotic float has been deployed to study the polynya's measurements, which lies hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. Back then, the opening was as large as Oregon.

As massive changes are taking place in the Antarctica, finding the causes of the polynya's behavior will provide valuable information to understand better what's going on in the icy continent.

But Earther notes that another team, from the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, believes its reappearance confirms their climate variability models, which suggested the polynya could show up again. Due to higher precipitation levels in the region and melting ice, the surface is expected to decouple from deeper water layers.

The cooling of the warmer ocean water when it reaches the surface may also have a broader impact on the ocean's temperature, but Moore says outside of local weather effects, scientists aren't sure what this polynya will mean for Antarctica's oceans and climate, and whether it is related to climate change. "The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system", said Professor Latif.

As scientists continue to hone their climate models and ideal their predictions, they're getting closer to being able to accurately simulate the exact process at work, but a full explanation may still be years away.

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