Gigantic Mystery Hole Opens in Antarctica, Are the Aliens Here?

James Marshall
Октября 12, 2017

A giant hole the size of Lake Superior has opened up in the ice on Antarctica's Weddell Sea, and researchers aren't sure what could cause it.

'It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice, ' atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, told Motherboard.

"At that time, the scientific community had just launched the first satellites that provided images of the sea-ice cover from space", said Torge Martin, a meteorologist and climate modeler, as quoted by Phys.org.

Areas of open water enveloped by ice, such as this hole are known as polynias and are formed in the coastal areas of Antarctica.

The odd hole measured 80,000 km at its peak, and it will have a significant impact on the oceans by driving convection. The melting of sea ice causes a localized temperature contrast between the ocean and atmosphere, which drives a convection current.

'The Southern Ocean is strongly stratified, ' says Professor Dr Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR.

Working with the Princeton-based Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group, Moore and his colleagues are using observations from deep-sea robots and satellites to study the phenomenon, which in the 1970s was first detected on the same site. He used the analogy of a pressure relief valve. This can result in polynias, fueled by warmer water rising to the surface, lasting longer than previously observed. Then it wasn't seen for four decades, reopened for a few weeks a year ago and has emerged yet again. The study of the giant hole will allow researchers to validate their climate models, Moore said.

Researchers from the Princeton-based Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group are conducting a study of the polynya that seeks to answer numerous questions. This particular polynia has been known to scientists since the 1970s, though they were unable to fully investigate in the past.

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

Experts say it's too early to know how climate change has affected the formation of the huge polynya, if it's to blame at all.

Understanding why such a big hole has suddenly opened up in Antarctica that is already undergoing huge changes will certainly play a key role in fathoming larger systems in action.

'The better we understand these natural processes, the better we can identify the anthropogenic impact on the climate system'.

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