A HOLE larger than a European country has opened up in Antarctica and scientists don’t know exactly why or how it formed.
The Netherlands-sized hole in the ice is “quite remarkable,” University of Toronto Mississauga professor Kent Moore told news site Motherboard.
“It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice,” he said.
Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynyas. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Mr Moore said.
This polynya is “deep in the ice pack”, though, and has formed through other processes that aren’t understood, he said.
“This is hundreds of kilometres from the ice edge. If we didn’t have a satellite, we wouldn’t know it was there.”
A polynya was observed in the same location, in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, in the 1970s.
The hole reopened again this year, marking “the second year in a row it’s opened up after 40 years of not being there”, Mr Moore said.
Back then, scientists had a limited ability to study the phenomenon*.
“At that time, the scientific community had just launched the first satellites that provided images of the sea-ice cover from space.”
Now, scientists are working to understand how often the polynya occurs and whether it is influenced by climate change.
However, Mr Moore told news site Broadly blaming climate change was “premature*”.
Scientists can say with certainty, though, that the polynya will have a wider impact on the oceans.
phenomenon: unusual happening
premature: too early
L ISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
Activity 1. Read and respond
• What happened in Antarctica?
• What is a polynya?
• Has it occurred before? When?
• How was it discovered?
• Why did it happen?
• Why did Mr Moore say that blaming climate change is premature?
Extension: Studying polynyas
Imagine you were a scientist studying this mysterious event.
Write a list of questions that you would like answers to that might help solve this natural puzzle.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Science, Humanities — Geography, Critical and Creative Thinking.
Activity 2. What do you know about Antarctica?
Create a mind map about Antarctica.
Begin with the word “Antarctica” in the centre of your page.
Draw lines from the centre word to link information that you know about Antarctica.
Create further links from this information until you have included all the information that you know.
You could think about the structure of the continent, weather, animals and plant life, people who live in Antarctica, who governs Antarctica, explorers who have travelled there.
Extension: Fact Sheet
Compare your mind map with a partner.
Highlight all the facts you both knew.
Was there any information that was different?
Use reference books or the internet to figure out what you got right.
Work together to create a fact sheet about Antarctica from the information that you know.
You can also research more to add information to your fact sheet.
Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Science, Humanities — Geography
(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)
Open it! polynya style
Let’s play Open it!
Say as many sentences you can in a minute. Play with a partner or time yourself.
Each sentence must start with a different opener from below.
How many sentences can you say in one minute about a polynya?
Can you use each of the openers listed below to come up with a sentence related to a polynya?
Openers: the, I, my, first, then, next, so, but, another thing, at last, if, before, eventually
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP