Mystery holes in sea ice are stumping NASA scientists

Scientists who took part in Nasa's Operation Ice Bridge said they had not seen anything of its kind before

The mysterious sea ice holes as captured on April 14 by NASA's Operation IceBridge.

Every month the team at NASA's Earth Observatory's site presents a Puzzler - a curious satellite or aerial image of Earth, of which readers are asked to offer up a guess or explanation.

"We saw these sorta-circular features only for a few minutes today", Sonntag said in his field observations.

Case in point: just what are these weird circular formations spotted from a P-3 research plane flying over the Beaufort Sea last week?

NASA's Operation IceBridge - the airborne mission flown annually over both polar regions - is now in its tenth year making flights over the Arctic.

What started off as a routine flyover for researcher John Sonntag ended with a discovery that scientists are scrambling to explain.

The NASA reports that some features in the ice can be easily explained while some cannot. Indeed, that's similar to one answer NASA has come up with: the holes bear a resemblance to photographs of breathing holes harp seals and ring seals have created.

Don perovich, a geophysicist from Dartmouth College, said that the circles could be formed as a result of ice movement from left to right talking about this "teeth" which are seen in the right part of the picture.

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Warm water may have caused the circles and holes, though it's also thought that maybe seals are responsible.

"The ice is likely to thin, soft, and mushy and somewhat pliable".

While flying over the Arctic Ocean, a NASA scientist recently spotted unusual ice circles which left him mystified, as holes of this kind have never been seen before in photographs, and NASA are now working through different theories of what may have caused the odd circles embedded in the ice. They're clustered together, each surrounded by one or two radiating layers of ridged, textured ice, nearly as if a batch of archery targets had melted and gone lopsided.

The other possibility, and one I've seen on quite a few ponds this winter where I live in northeast NY, is that the ice punctures are due to convection from warm water sources.

"I'm not sure what kind of dynamics could lead to the semi-circle shaped features surrounding the holes", he says. Seals need to surface above the ice to breathe, so they would gnaw away at the ice until they created the holes in which they could get to the oxygen. I don't know about you, but I'm going with the feel-good seals.

The main aim of the mission for that flight was to observe sea ice in a region that was not very well covered until about 2013.

He also suggests that there could be warm currents of water from Beaufort or from the Mackenzie River that fount their "way to the surface due to interacting with the bathymetry, just the way some polynyas form".

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