Antarctica is the perfect laboratory for collecting data on how our human activity is (presumably) irrevocably changing the Earth for the worse. Over the last few years, all sorts of unexplained and unprecedented changes have been unleashed upon the icy southernmost continent, including rare phytoplankton blooms that have made huge areas of Antarctic ice turn green and huge cracks and fissures spontaneously opening up, prompting hopes that Atlantis might be found under the ice. Now, a more worrisome sight has developed and scientists don’t know what to make of it: a huge hole has been seemingly punched right through the continent, miles from the coastline.
Due to the large distance between the hole and the coast, scientists do not believe that the normal forces of tidal erosion and glacial shearing are behind this mysterious void. These polynyas typically form either when warm water vents erode sea ice from below or when oceans currents create pockets of higher salt density, causing that salty ice to sink.
In the case of this new polynya, researchers aren’t sure if either of these forces are at work or if this hole represents some new phenomenon altogether. This particular polynya opened once before in the 1970s but closed up before scientists could study it. University of Toronto physicist Kent Moore told Motherboard that the hole is “quite remarkable” for its size and seemingly spontaneous reappearance:
It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice. This is now the second year in a row it’s opened after 40 years of not being there. We’re still trying to figure out what’s going on.
With so much weirdness afoot on the continent lately, there’s no telling what might be behind the sudden reappearance of the hole. Secret nuclear testing? Some form of higher strangeness? Or could it just be that we are witnessing another symptom of our planet’s runaway changing climate patterns? Which is more terrifying?