Invisible air rivers in the sky have been leaving giant holes in the Antarctic ice

It appeared in 1973, mostly nowhere: a hole in the sea ice off the coast of Antarctica. But this was no ordinary hole. It was big enough to swallow California.

Remained in mysterious opening position for the following three winters. It then appeared to have largely disappeared before re-filling in 2017, with a huge mound the size of a 2017.

Sometimes this huge hole with a state-shaped appetite called a pinyinia – an area of ​​open water surrounded by sea ice, opposite a kind of iceberg.

But the mysterious Waddell Polynia – in the waters of the Waddell Sea Ocean in the South Ocean, above the marine plateau of Maud Rise – is an extreme example of this environmental phenomenon. Why it has opened so dramatically and two and yet scientists have long been confused.

Last year, researchers suggested that such an abandonment of Waddell Polynia required a combination of all weather anomalies at once.

In a second study in 2019, led by meteorologist Diana Francis, one such anomaly was suggested: traces of intense cyclones produced by atmospheric rotation, which can pull floating sea ice in opposite directions and make a hurricane out of sight. Is. .

Francis, now a senior scientist at Khalifa University in the UAE, recently conducted a new study that will shed light on another contributor to the hitherto neglected phenomenon: atmospheric rivers of warm, humid air.

In new research, Francis and his team analyzed atmospheric data dating back to the 1970s, and found that these ‘rivers of the sky’ probably played a “crucial role” in the formation of the 1973 and 2017 Waddell Polynia events, with The constant flow in days becomes clear.

“I was surprised to see sea ice covered by atmospheric rivers almost immediately melt during the coldest months of the year in Antarctica,” Francis told Nature Mid East.

Researchers say that atmospheric circulation shifts hot, humid air belts all the way from the coast of South America to the polar region, inducing melting by a combination of these effects, including: the release of heat into the air mass; Local greenhouse effect created by water vapor; And contribute to cyclone dynamics.

“Atmospheric rivers also intensify storms because they provide more water vapor. They are connected, not independent,” Francis explains. New Scientist.

It is unlikely to be the last word on what increases due to the monumental meltdown of the Waddle Polynesia, but our understanding expands as a huge hole appears in the new insights.

Given both atmospheric rivers and cyclones, predicting an increase in the intensity of global warming, this strange opening off the coast of Antarctica is something we can see more often, but we will have to wait and see.

These findings are reported Science progress.