"View of the Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica" by NASA / Public Domain

Mystery Sea Opened Up During the Antarctic Winter. Now, Scientists Know Why.

Apr 30, 2019

By Stephanie Pappas

A swath of ice-free sea that regularly opens up during the frigid Antarctic winters is created by cyclones.

Sea ice in Antarctica is thickest in the winter, so the appearance of open water is perplexing. These open seas are called polynyas. In 2017, scientists spotted one in the Lazarev Sea, which they called the Maud Rise polynya because it sits over an ocean plateau called Maud Rise.

Now, researchers led by Diana Francis, a New York University Abu Dhabi atmospheric scientist, find that cyclonic winds push ice in opposite directions, causing the pack to open up and expose open sea.

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