A Maine-Sized Hole Has Opened up in Antarctica's Ice Blanket

A giant hole has opened up in Antarctica. Motherboard

This isn't the first time it's been spotted, having appeared a year ago for a brief period as well, and long before that it was detected back in the 1970s. 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. To put it in perspective, the hole covers an area of about 80,000 square kilometres. "If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there", Moore added.

Despite its long and mysterious history, nobody's ever seen the massive polynyaup close because it's in such a remote region of Antarctica's Weddell Sea.

However, the recently discovered polynya is "deep in the ice pack", which is rather unusual, Moore said.

As it is, researchers will likely start or continue studying this unusual polynya which appeared in the Antarctic sea ice coverage. Ocean convection occurs in the polynya by bringing warmer water to the surface, which then melts the sea ice and prevents new ice from forming.

He said the Weddell Sea polynya would be like an "oasis in the desert" for marine mammals such as orcas and seals, so it's probably teeming with life.

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An elephant seal lounges in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, on March 6, 2016.

Many consider this to be a polynya that suffers a change of state, rather than temperature.

Meanwhile, as stated in the Earther, another team from the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany assumes that the reoccurrence of the hole confirms their climate variability models, which also predicts that polynya may appear again. However, we've got a good chance of understanding what's going on this time.

The good news is the satellites are much more powerful than they were in the '70s, so scientists should be able to collect much more data this time around.

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. However, it disappeared for several decades before showing back up, throwing a huge kink in many scientific explanations for its existence.

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