A hole larger than Switzerland has opened in the Antarctic sea ice

A hole larger than Switzerland opened up in the Antarctic sea ice last month, leaving scientists baffled.

The polynya — a vast area of open water that should be covered by ice, but isn’t — formed in the Weddell Sea and covers an area of 16,000 square miles.

Scientists are trying to understand why such a large hole appeared so far from the Arctic coastline, and why, despite plummeting temperatures, it refuses to freeze over.

The Weddell polynya is part of a natural cycle, but this year’s hole is the biggest it’s been since it was first spotted in the 1970s, reappearing last year for the first time in four decades.

Scientists have speculated the polynya could offer greater understanding of the processes controlling Antarctic circulation, and how the Southern Ocean is changing due to human-caused climate change.

The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project at Princeton said its scientists are using “climate models to explore why these polynyas form and how they affect ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns.”

However, the University of Toronto’s Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist, told Motherboard it was “premature” to say whether climate change caused the event.

The Vice News