Largest hole with area of 80000 sq km spotted in Antarctica
Oct 14, 2017, 00:35
The causes and effects of polynya have also been explained in several publications in recent years.
Back in 1970s, a polynia was seen at the same location in Antarctica's Weddell Sea but since observation tools that the scientists had were not as good at that time as they are now, that hole could not be analyzed.
The harsh winter in Antarctica makes it hard to find holes like this one, so it can be difficult to study them.
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. The polynya was observed in the same region in the 1970's, then disappeared and appeared on a few weeks back a year ago. Now, a massive hole the size of Lake Superior has appeared many miles inland from where the ice meets the ocean, and scientists have little concrete explanation as to why it's there.
Despite the fact that the exact reasons for the appearance of polynyas are still unknown, the mechanism of its formation is approximately comprehensible, the N + 1 site specifies. "A very cold but relatively fresh water layer covers a much warmer and saltier water mass, thus acting as an insulating layer", said Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. While it wasn't seen for decades after 1976, it reappeared in August past year.
What is not fully known, however, is how climate change might affect this process. Due to higher precipitation levels in the region and melting ice, the surface is expected to decouple from deeper water layers.
At its largest extent, this winter's polynya had an area of open water close to 80,000 square kilometres (km2), he said.
Researchers say that with new ocean measurements, the space-based images and climate models, they're hoping to finally unravel the polynyas' secrets and their impacts on the climate.
'Global warming is not a linear process and happens on top of internal variability inherent to the climate system, ' Latif says. "We don't really understand the long-term impacts this polynya will have".
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