From: GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Published September 29, 2017 03:00 PM

Antarctica: Return of the Weddell Polynya supports Kiel Climate Model

Currently, winter has still a firm grip on Antarctica. At this time of the year, the Weddell Sea usually is covered with a thick layer of sea ice. In spite of the icy temperatures in the region, satellite images depict a large ice-free area in the middle of the ice cover. The area of the hole in the ice is larger than The Netherlands and it fascinates climate and polar researchers worldwide. Scientists from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel are closely monitoring the developments. “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," says Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler in the GEOMAR Research Division "Oceans Circulation and Climate Dynamics".

Polar researchers refer to a large ice-free area in otherwise frozen seas with the Russian word “polynya”. In the Arctic and Antarctic, polynyas occur regularly, but typically in coastal regions. They play an important role in the formation of new sea ice and deep water. In the open ocean, however, polynyas are rare. The so-called Weddell Polynya only once has been observed during the satellite era, namely in the mid-1970s. “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,” says Dr. Martin.

Continue reading at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel

Photo: Aerial view of the polynya in the Southern Ocean.

Credit: Jan Lieser, ACE CRC, Australia

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