But experts believe they may now have the answer to the mysterious holes.Scientists at the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) have analysed satellite images and concluded the holes – known as polynyas – could be the result of cyclonic storms in Antarctica.Cyclones bring in warm air and 50 feet waves which can batter the sea ice and shove it in all directions, and while the holes look devastating, scientists say they serve a purpose for animals in the South Pole, with the likes of seals and penguins using them for pathways.
Polynyas can also help to regulate and give an indicator of climate change as the gap between the ocean and the sky can influence the atmosphere.Strange holes keep opening in South Pole and scientists are BAFFLED (Image: NASA)NYUAD atmospheric scientist Diana Francis, who is lead author of the study, said: “Once opened, the polynya works like a window through the sea-ice, transferring huge amounts of energy during winter between the ocean and the atmosphere.
Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations leads to increasing acidification of the Ocean. Projections give reductions in average global surface Ocean pH of between 0.14 and 0.35 units over the 21st century, adding to the present decrease of 0.1 units since pre-industrial times.
“Because of their large size, mid-sea polynyas are capable of impacting the climate regionally and globally as they modify the oceanic circulation.”
The researchers write in their study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres: “Given their large size in the middle of the ice pack, mid-sea polynyas, through intense deep convection, are capable of impacting the climate locally, regionally, and potentially globally by modifying the oceanic circulation underneath.Penguins use the polynyas for pathways (Image: GETTY)“This includes impact on the regional atmospheric circulation, the global overturning circulation, Antarctic deep and bottom water properties, and oceanic carbon uptake.”
But Ms Francis says that as climate change becomes worse, cyclones will become more common and polynyas will grow bigger.
Observations since 1961 show that the average temperature of the global Ocean has increased to depths of at least 3000 m and that the ocean has been absorbing more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system. Such warming causes seawater to expand, contributing to sea level rise.
She said: “Given the link between polynya and cyclones we demonstrated in this study, it is speculated that polynya events may become more frequent under warmer climate because these areas will be more exposed to more intense cyclones.”