A mysterious hole the size of Maine has opened up in Antarctica, stumping scientists who have no clue how it formed, Motherboard reports. "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice," explained University of Toronto Mississauga professor Kent Moore.
Called a "polynya" — an area of open ocean water in the midst of ice — the spot was first observed in the same location in the 1970s, but scientists at the time were limited in their ability to study it. "At that time, the scientific community had just launched the first satellites that provided images of the sea-ice cover from space. On-site measurements in the Southern Ocean still require enormous efforts, so they are quite limited," Dr. Torge Martin told Phys.org.
Last year, the hole mysteriously opened up again for a few weeks. The 2017 polynya, which is larger than the Netherlands and opened in early September, marks "the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said.
Blaming climate change is "premature," Moore cautioned, adding that his team is working to publish their research on why the hole has appeared again. That being said, Martin added: "For us this ice-free area is an important new data point which we can use to validate our climate models. Its occurrence after several decades also confirms our previous calculations." Read more about the polynya at Motherboard and Phys.org.