What we know about the huge hole that appeared in the Arctic

The polynya that has been created shows worrying signs of subsidence of the Last Ice Area, a region considered the oldest and most resistant to climate change.

A huge hole has opened in the Last Ice Area of the Arctic, a region considered the oldest and most resistant to climate change due to the thickness of its ice. The polynia, or open water area, formed in May 2020 and signals that even this area, thought to be invulnerable, is showing worrying signs of subsidence. The new report on the rift formed in the Arctic was published in August in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

What we know about the hole in the Arctic

The polynia is the first that has ever been observed north of Ellesmere Island. From old satellite data, however, researchers believe similar events may have also formed in 1988 and 2004. "North of Ellesmere Island, it is difficult to melt ice because it is thick and in large quantities," explained the study's lead author Kent Moore, a researcher at the University of Toronto-Missisauga. That's why until now the area was thought to be invulnerable.

The hole in the Last Ice Area is nearly three times the size of the city of Rome and is visible on Nasa's EOSDIS Worldview map. According to the study, the crack in the ice could be formed with extreme wind conditions and a persistent anticyclone or during a storm in high pressure conditions with strong winds rotating clockwise.

What are polynyas

Polynyas are temporary and quite frequent phenomena at the Poles and, in the short term, they favor the Arctic ecosystem because water is essential for animals. At the same time, however, they cause the thinning of the Arctic ice. In the case of the hole in the Last Ice Area, what is of concern is precisely the area in which it formed. This type of cracks, usually, appear where the ice sheet is thin, but in the region where the polynia appeared, the Arctic ice reaches a thickness of 5 meters and does not melt even in summer. According to researchers at the University of Toronto-Missisauga, "as the ice thins" it will be easier for these polynyas to be created and they can become very common.

Regarding global warming that is creating particular phenomena at the poles, research has warned of scorching temperatures occurring at the Arctic Circle, while this summer rain was recorded for the first time on Greenland's highest peak. In Antarctica, however, a lake has mysteriously disappeared.

Stefania Bernardini