A giant hole has opened up in Antarctica that could possibly be as big as the state of Maine (91,646 km²) and Lake Superior (82,103 km²). As per a report published by Motherboard, the scientists are yet not sure about the cause of opening up of this hole. 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.
Areas of open water enveloped by ice, such as this hole are known as polynias and are formed in the coastal areas of Antarctica. In case of this giant hole, it is strange that it has formed “deep in the ice pack”. According to Moore, the hole is a result of other processes that aren’t understood yet. He said:
“This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn’t have a satellite, we wouldn’t know it was there.”
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. Then it wasn’t seen for four decades, reopened for a few weeks last year and has emerged yet again.
Blaming climate change for this giant hole is one alternative that the scientists have but according to Moore, that would be a premature thing. Though the cause behind is still not known, what scientists can predict with certainty is that this polynia will have a great impact on the oceans.
Kent Moore further says:
“Once the sea ice melts back, you have this huge temperature contrast between the ocean and the atmosphere. It can start driving convection. Denser, colder water sinks to the bottom of the ocean, while warmer water comes to the surface, which can keep the polynia open once it starts.”
Moore is working with his collaborators in an attempt to answer questions about this whole in a research that hasn’t been published yet. The team is making use of observations from deep sea robots and satellites and feels that the data they have now compared to 40 years ago is “amazing”.
Understanding why such a gigantic 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.