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Environment | Antarctica

Mysterious hole the size of Maine opens in Antarctica


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, October 13, 2017, 13:18 - A giant hole has opened up in Antarctica and scientists can't explain why.

The opening is called a polynya, a term that defines open water surrounded by ice.

At its largest the polynya measured 80,000 kilometres -- making it larger than the Netherlands and roughly the same size as the U.S. state of Maine. It's the largest polynya to open in the Weddell Sea since the 1970s. “In the depths of winter, for more than a month, we’ve had this area of open water,” Kent Moore, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Toronto, told National Geographic. “It’s just remarkable that this polynya went away for 40 years and then came back.”

A robotic float has been deployed to study the polynya's measurements, which lies hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. 

"If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there," Moore told Motherboard, adding it looks like someone "punched a hole" through the ice.

Scientists weren't expecting the polynya to re-appear, and aren't sure why it has resurfaced twice in the past two years. The polynya is expected to remain in place until warmer spring air prevents it from releasing heat and sinking water. 

Sources: NASA | National Geographic | Motherboard

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