Baffled NASA Scientists Discover Holes Appearing in Arctic Ice

Monday, 23 April 2018 - 11:26AM
NASA
Earth
Monday, 23 April 2018 - 11:26AM
Baffled NASA Scientists Discover Holes Appearing in Arctic Ice
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Image Credit: NASA
What started off as a routine flyover for researcher John Sonntag ended with a discovery that scientists are scrambling to explain. These mysterious ice holes discovered in the Arctic by NASA's IceBridge project have never been spotted anywhere else, and their cause is unknown. Each one looks like an oblong slit in the ice, surrounded by a warped circle. According to Nathan Kurtz, another IceBridge member:

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"I'm not sure what kind of dynamics could lead to the semi-circle shaped features surrounding the holes. I have never seen anything like that before."
Closing quote


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The holes were spotted in the frozen Beaufort Sea, about 50 miles northwest of the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada. There are two potential explanations. First, that seals breaking through the ice cause water to cascade out of the holes they leave behind, thereby creating the weirdly-shaped rings. On the other hand, the holes might come from "warm water melting through the arctic ocean, either from warm springs, groundwater flowing from the inland mountains or from certain currents making its way to the ocean's surface."

The Arctic is a fascinating place for scientists – not only because it may play a huge role in global climate change, but because its climate can be used to simulate conditions on other planets, like Mars. The Arctic has also hosted its own share of strange phenomena like supposed cube-shaped UFOs (unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, these turned out to be NASA satellites). The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located in the Arctic, and apparently requires some renovations due to the surrounding ice melting away – the vault may not make it until doomsday, as planned.

As for these ice holes, it wasn't even IceBridge's mission to find them. They were tasked with observing sea ice around the Arctic and stumbled across the phenomenon. Hopefully we'll learn more about them – and many more new discoveries – in the coming years.

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