In a shocking natural incident, a massive hole has formed in the ice of Antarctica leaving scientists baffled to why it's there. Experts believe that the Weddell polynya might a part of some cyclical process but they lack clear details. The phenomenon was previously observed in the same location in the 1970s when satellite imaging was barely making its first baby steps.
Moore, along with the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling (SOCCOM) group at Princeton, are studying the mysterious hole, which showed up in satellite images around September 9. "It's just remarkable that this polyna went away for four years and then came back".
Researchers said the event marks the second year in a row in which the polynya has formed, although it was not as large last year.
Under certain circumstances, that warmer water can break through the insulating cooler water and melt the ice-a phenomena that happens regularly around coastal areas in both the Arctic and Antarctic, but normally not in the middle of the sea.
The Southern Ocean has a fairly layered structure, and above the layer of warmer and salt water is a layer of cold and relatively fresh water.
'The Southern Ocean is strongly stratified, ' says Professor Dr Mojib Latif, head of the Research Division at GEOMAR.
And if scientists do figure out what is causing this particular polynia, it will shed some light on how Antarctica will change over the next few years. This is quite possible given the fact that the deep water is saltier as well as warmer than the layer of water at the top.
A preliminary analysis run by American scientists suggests that the Weddell Polynya should not occur again because of climate change at all.
Will it close up again for another 40 years?
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.
"For us this ice-free area is an important new data point which we can use to validate our climate models", said Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel.