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Mysterious holes in Antarctic sea ice explained by years of robotic data

The winter ice on the surface of Antarctica's Weddell Sea occasionally forms an enormous hole. A hole that appeared in 2016 and 2017 drew intense curiosity from scientists and reporters. Though even bigger gaps had formed decades before, this was the first time oceanographers had a chance to truly monitor the unexpected gap in Antarctic winter sea ice. A new study led by the University of Washington combines satellite images of the sea ice cover, robotic drifters and even seals outfitted with sensors to better understand the phenomenon. The research explores why this hole appears in only some years, and what role it could play in the larger ocean circulation. Satellite images from Aug. 30, 2017 through Dec. 2, 2017 show the rarely-seen opening in the late Southern Hemisphere winter sea ice. The two plus signs show the location of oceanographic robots that were trapped in a spinning column of water above an underwater mountain. The study also used data from the long-running Argo ocean observing program, elephant seals that beam data back to shore, weather stations and decades of satellite images.

Visit Website | Image credit: Dan Costa/University of California, Santa Cruz