Mystery Holes: NASA Perplexed by Bizarre Ice Circles in Arctic

Mystery Holes: NASA Perplexed by Bizarre Ice Circles in Arctic

"I don't recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere."
"I have never seen anything like that before". Jump over to NASA's site and drop a note in the comments.

Freaky circular shapes spotted by a research plane in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea are puzzling NASA scientists. It was taken as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, which flies annually over both polar regions to map the region's land and sea ice.

On April 14, IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag saw something he'd never seen before - and this is the guy who gave us the incredible photos of the cracks in the ice before the Larson C ice shelf broke off last summer - so he's no stranger to the mysterious frozen landscape.

Get that? Good. Either way, the mystery looks set to continue. They don't know what the features are or how they formed because they've never seen anything like it before, and now they're doing their best to figure out why the odd patterns exist. "This can be seen in the wave-like features in front of the middle 'amoeba'".

"The ice is likely thin, soft, and mushy and somewhat pliable", Don said. However, project scientist Nathan Kurtz isn't sure what caused the circles, saying, "I have never seen anything like that before".

However if you perhaps suspected something mammalian in nature, you could be getting warmer.

Rather than the endless open expanse of ice and snow that they are used to seeing, the team observed what appears to be large holes in the icy crust, along with wavy ice patterns that have no easy scientific explanation.

One of the reasons for the appearance of the holes may be the movement of ice.

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But then again, maybe not.

You might not know Sonntag's name, but you've nearly definitely seen his photographic portfolio before, as his day job sees him aerially documenting the wintry, white vistas that define the world's evolving Arctic and Antarctic landscapes.

Sonntag and others are at a loss for what the holes might be, but they have a few ideas.

Ice holes were spotted by NASA scientists earlier this month in the eastern Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

"This is in pretty shallow water generally, so there is every chance this is just "warm springs" or seeps of ground water flowing from the mountains inland that make their presence known in this particular area", explains NASA glaciologist Chris Shuman from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

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".

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.

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