Published: Wed, April 25, 2018
Science | By Celia Watts

Mysterious Ice Circles In The Arctic Ocean Have Left NASA Scientists Puzzled

Mysterious Ice Circles In The Arctic Ocean Have Left NASA Scientists Puzzled

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.

"I don't recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere", said scientist John Sonntag, who is a part of NASA's Operation IceBridge.

Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory sea ice scientist Chris Polashenski told NASA he'd glimpsed features like these holes in the past. Now they are all set to find out about it. NASA's yearly flight over the poles also known as operation Icebridge was astonished to observe such odd formations near Canada's Mackenzie River Delta.

Due to the limitations inherent to having only a single image of the features, NASA says determining what we're looking at is tricky and that right now all it has is speculation. But Dartmouth College sea ice geophysicist Don Perovich doesn't think so, because the effects would be broader, he says.

And Sonntag is used to seeing ice formations.

It has also been posited that "the holes may have been gnawed out by seals to create an open area in the ice through which they can surface to breathe".

They conducted a six-month analysis of the polar shapok in the two hemispheres, which used "the most sophisticated Suite of innovative scientific instruments in history", including laser altimeters, lidar, aircraft and satellites NASA.

In the midst of NASA's annual research flight over the Arctic region, a scientist has spotted something rather unusual that he had never seen before.

One species, the ringed seal, has sharp claws on its front flippers measuring more than an inch thick.

However scientists are still stumped as to what could be causing the semi-circle shaped features surrounding the holes.

Chris Shuman, a glaciologist from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, also based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center believes that there are "just "warm springs" or seeps of ground water flowing from the mountains inland that make their presence known in this particular area".

Walt Meier, a National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist, stated, "The encircling features may be due to waves of water washing out over the snow and ice when the seals surface". One of the more interesting potential explanations is that the holes are the result of animals such as seals digging their way through the ice.

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