A large hole the size of the Netherlands has opened up in the thick layer of Antarctic ice.
Ice researchers say it’s “premature” to link this anomaly to climate change, although it comes after another event where an iceberg more than double the size of Paris has been displaced from the Pine Island Glacier of Western Antarctica just a few weeks ago.
Winter has ended recently in the southern hemisphere, and such brisk and unexpected changes were not on the radar of scientists studying the Antarctic region who are still struggling to understand how this abnormality occurred.
It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice,” said atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, of the University of Toronto.
The opening is not something entirely new. The phenomenon had been observed across multiple seasons during the 1970s, but it didn’t show up again until four decades later.
It reemerged in 2016, and once again this year when it exceeded all previous proportions.
This is now the second year in a row it’s opened after 40 years of not being there,” Moore declared during an interview. “we’re still trying to figure out what’s going on.’
What it is known so far is that such holes encompassed by sea ice are called “polynyas,” and they form as a result of warm ocean currents pushing upwards through the ice, dissolving everything in their path until reaching the surface.
Because of this, a team of scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, believe the recent reappearance of the Antarctic hole is due to climate change and their climate variability models seem to prove just that. According to their calculations, the polynya should appear again in the years to follow.
It remains subject to debate whether or not these mysterious holes in the Antarctic ice shelf are due to global warming or some other cause that’s yet to be identified.
While most researchers pursuing alternative beliefs are keeping a close eye on Antarctica and are craving for the ice to melt in order to reveal what’s hidden under there, it’s important to note that the ice shelf surrounding Antarctica is not part of the actual landmass, but instead floating above the Southern Ocean.
However, if the thick platform of ice melts, it remains only a matter of time until warm currents find their way to the continent, paving the way to the meltdown of additional ice coating the various landforms present in Antarctica.
When this phenomenon will take place and what will be the exact outcome we can only guess, but according to recent reports, more and more icebergs are breaking off from Antarctica’s glaciers, with the most affected side being the western flank of the frozen continent.