A mysterious and massive hole, as big as Lake Superior or Portugal , has recently been discovered in the winter sea ice cover around Antarctica.
Designated as Misery Hole, this opening is known as a polinia and is as large as Lake Superior or Portugal. It is the largest observed in the Antarctic’s Weddell Sea since the 1970s.
At its most extreme, this winter’s polinia had an open water area of ??about 80,000 square kilometers. This is the second consecutive year in which the polinia has been formed, although it was not as big last year.
Without the insulating effect of the sea ice cover, a polynya allows the atmosphere and the ocean to exchange heat and humidity, which leads to significant impacts on the climate.
Ocean convection occurs within the polynya that brings warmer water to the surface that melts sea ice and prevents the new ice from forming.
Professor Kent Moore of the University of Toronto Mississauga has been collaborating with members of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling Project (SOCCOM) to investigate these pollinia and their climate impacts.
Due to the harshness of the Antarctic winter and the difficulties of operating within its environment, there are few direct observations of these pollinia and their impacts on atmospheric and oceanic circulation – but continued research may greatly expand scientists’ understand of climate change and its effects.