More

    Atmospheric rivers help create sea ice holes

    Long “atmospheric rivers” help create massive holes in Antarctic sea ice and may influence ocean conditions around the vast continent, according to new research.

    Scientists studied the impact of the intense plumes of warm and moist air that flow to the polar environment from the coast of South America and found that their repeated arrival during winter of 2017 contributed to the development of a sea ice hole (a polynya) in the Weddell Sea region of the Southern Ocean.

    Previous studies have found that atmospheric rivers influence melting of West Antarctic land ice and ice shelves, but this is the first, they say, to show their effects on Antarctic sea ice.

    The work involved a team from Khalifa University of Science and Technology in the UAE, the Australian Antarctic Division, and Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology in the US. The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

    “Polynyas strongly influence the physical and ecological dynamics of the Southern Ocean,” says co-author Kyle Mattingly, from Rutgers. “They serve as giant windows in the sea ice that allow large amounts of heat to move from the ocean to the atmosphere, modifying regional and global ocean circulation.

    “They also affect the timing and magnitude of phytoplankton – algae – blooms, which are the base of the marine food web. Our study will pave the way for greater understanding of climate variability and climate change in these regions.”

    Atmospheric rivers can be thousands of kilometres long and the sea ice holes cover thousands of square kilometres, usually at specific locations that are primed by local ocean circulation conditions.

    Under projected future climate change, the rivers are predicted to become more frequent, longer, wider and more effective in moving high levels of water vapour toward the Antarctic Ocean and continent, along with increasing the intensity of precipitation, the researchers say.

    In general, where they make landfall is predicted to shift toward the poles, and the effect of climate change on sea ice holes in the Weddell Sea and elsewhere in the Southern Ocean is an important area for future research.

    Read science facts, not fiction…

    There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.

    Latest articles

    Breakthrough Discovery: Karahan Tepe is Older Than Göbekli Tepe

    Researchers in Turkey are about to embark on an excavation at the ancient site of Karahan Tepe and they believe it’s much older than...

    Give the gift of Bill Nye with his virtual reality science kit

    Home News Kids can get fully immersed into Bill Nye's science lab with his virtual reality science kit. (Image: © Abacus Brands) This year, you can give your...

    How much snow is needed for an official ‘White Christmas’?

    Home News (Image: © Shutterstock) Every December, many of us begin to dream of a white Christmas, of marshmallow worlds and walking in a winter wonderland....

    Hidden Welsh Witchcraft Den And Demon Traps Discovered In Old Home

    A home full of occult objects has attracted enormous interest, recently. A hidden space beneath a staircase in a 16th-century Welsh home was filled...

    Related articles