Mysterious ice circles in the Arctic are baffling researchers who aren’t really sure what they are or how they got there.
Recently, when flying over the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic, NASA scientists stumbled on a bit of a mystery: three holes in the sea ice surrounded by irregular circular shapes.
As part of its Operation IceBridge mission, NASA has been photographing, mapping and documenting how climate change is affecting both the Arctic and the Antarctic. NASA scientists have flown over a lot of sea ice during their missions, but the ice features shown in the above photograph were something new.
Like much about the Arctic region, scientists don’t know exactly how these shapes were formed. Maybe seals or whales created the holes in the ice, and water flowed out to cause the surrounding circle shapes on the ice. Or maybe warm water bubbled up from below to create the features.
However these shapes came about, we know they appear in an area of young, thin ice that was recently open water. The ice is so pliable that wave-like ripples appear on its surface, which can be seen in the center-left of the photograph.