Huge, mysterious hole opens up in Antarctica

Image: MODIS-Aqua via NASA Worldview; sea ice contours from AMSR2 ASI via University of Bremen
An image of the hole in the ice (the blue outline within the icy area).

A massive, 30,000 square mile hole has just opened up in the Antarctic ice. (For reference, that’s roughly the size of the state of Maine, the surface of Lake Superior, or the entire nation of Belgium.) A hole such as this — an area of open water surrounded by sea ice — is called a polynya. This particular polynya is located in the Weddell Sea, and while its appearance is puzzling, it is not unprecedented: a similar hole was observed in the region in the 1970s. Precisely what led to the formation of the Weddell Sea polynya is unknown. A typical polynya forms close to open water; this one, however, is “deep in the ice pack” and thus “must have formed through other processes that aren’t understood.”1

 

While scientific data on the 1970s Weddell Sea polynya is limited to a few photographs taken by early satellites, technological advances since that time offer researchers greater ability to study — and perhaps understand — the hole’s recurrence. As to precisely what caused this hole to open up, I have my own theory:

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Boston’s snow pile STILL hasn’t melted.

It’s nearly July, and while Boston’s massive mound of snow has certainly shrunk since its heyday, it seems likely that it will take at least a few more weeks before the last of it has melted away. Check out these pics from Twitter:

Before: Boston's snow mound at its height in February.
Before: Boston’s snow mound at its height in February.
After: Boston's snow mound in June, glory days long behind it.
After: Boston’s snow mound in June, glory days long behind it.

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/offbeat/bostons-nasty-snow-pile-still-hasnt-melted/ar-AAcaW12

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It’s raining spiders in Australia

Australia, the Land Down Under, the place where everything is poisonous, just got even more terrifying. You read the headline right: it is raining spiders in Australia:

Millions of tiny spiders recently fell from the sky in Australia, alarming residents whose properties were suddenly covered with not only the creepy critters, but also mounds of their silky threads. But that’s not where the frightful news ends: Experts say that such arachnid rains aren’t as uncommon as you might think.


Of course the question, then, is why is it raining spiders in Australia? (Tautological answers will not be accepted.) The answer is just as unsettling as the phenomenon itself. According to Rick Vetter, a retired arachnologist at the University of California, Riverside, witnesses

likely saw a form of spider transportation known as ballooning. “Ballooning is a not-uncommon behavior of many spiders. They climb some high area and stick their butts up in the air and release silk. Then they just take off,” Vetter told Live Science. “This is going on all around us all the time. We just don’t notice it.”

Next time I travel to Australia, remind me to bring an umbrella.

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