A massive hole known as a polynya started to grow in Antarctica's Weddell Sea last month, a strange phenomenon as polynyas typically do not develop deep in the ice pack, Motherboard reports.
"It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice," atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, explained.
A bigger version of this gap was discovered in 1974 in satellite observations at precisely the same area of Antarctica, and it reopened last year for a few weeks. At its peak, the Weddell Polynya quantified nearly the size of the state of Maine and 31,000 square miles, which is bigger than the Netherlands.
"This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 decades of not being there," Moore said. "We are still trying to determine what's going on."
A polynya typically forms farther driven by the upwelling of warm water according to NASA.
"While smaller and shorter-lived compared to the 1970s Weddell polynya, it's still an odd and important phenomenon," Alek Petty, a sea ice scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in 2016 if the polynya appeared. "It enables a significant quantity of heat to escape to the winter atmosphere, where air temperatures are considered to hover around minus 20 degrees Celsius."
Researchers are monitoring the polynya, such as a group at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, along with the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling team based at Princeton University.
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