A Large Gap Simply Opened Up in Antarctica’s Ice and Scientists Cannot Clarify It

The polynya is the darkish area of open water inside the ice pack. Credit score: NASA Worldview

A mysterious, large gap, as giant as Lake Superior or the State of Maine, has just lately been noticed within the winter sea ice cowl round Antarctica. This opening, referred to as a polynya, is the most important noticed within the Weddell Sea because the Nineteen Seventies.

At its largest extent, this winter’s polynya had an space of open water near eighty,000km2. This marks the second yr in a row during which the polynya has shaped, though it was not as giant final yr.

With out the insulating impact of sea ice cowl, a polynya permits the environment and ocean to change warmth, momentum and moisture resulting in vital impacts on local weather. Ocean convection happens inside the polynya bringing hotter water to the floor that melts the ocean ice and prevents new ice from forming.

Professor Kent Moore of the College of Toronto Mississauga’s Division of Chemical and Bodily Sciences has been collaborating with members of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Local weather Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) venture to research these polynyas and their local weather impacts.

Because of the harshness of the Antarctic winter and the difficulties of working inside its pack ice, there exist few direct observations of those polynyas and their impacts on the atmospheric and oceanic circulation. As a part of the SOCCOM venture, robotic profiling floats able to working beneath sea ice have deployed within the area for the previous variety of years. 

Final month, certainly one of these floats surfaced contained in the Weddell Sea polynya, making contact with researchers and offering distinctive knowledge on its existence. With these new ocean measurements, together with area-based mostly observations and local weather fashions, comes the likelihood that these polynyas’ secrets and techniques and their impacts on the local weather might lastly be revealed.

The research was revealed within the Current Climate Change Reports.


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