The deep water in that part of the Southern Ocean is warmer and saltier than the surface water. In addition, scientists hope that in the near future it will be possible to simulate such a system with the help of computer simulation.
Now it's back and this year it appears bigger than last year. This gaping polynya, which measures an area equivalent to the Netherlands, opened right in the middle of a sea which would have otherwise been completely covered in thick ice. Ocean currents bring the warmer water upwards, where it melts the blankets of ice that had formed on the ocean's surface. "This is like opening a pressure relief valve - the ocean then releases a surplus of heat to the atmosphere for several consecutive winters until the heat reservoir is exhausted", said Prof.
"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. Despite the freezing temperatures, however, the polynya is making a break for it.
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. Also, despite being exposed to freezing chilly winds during the last month, this polynya has continued to persist, which means whatever force caused the hole to form is strong enough to keep it from refreezing. The polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack.
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