NASA doesn't know what's making these freaky circles in the Arctic

Arctic circles

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

When NASA scientists come across something they say they've never seen before, it's usually quite something.

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

IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag, the photographer of the phenom, wrote, "I don't recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere".

NASA scientists flying over the Arctic earlier this month spotted unusual shapes out the window, but they aren't sure what caused them. They claim that the ice in that place was thin and the phenomenon was called "finger rafting", a feature that forms when floes collide.

"I$3 t could be a sort of drainage feature that results from when the hole is made in the ice", according to National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt Meier.

If that's the case, it's possible the larger circles that surround the holes come from the behaviour of the seals, forming freezing puddles as the animals emerge from their frigid dip.

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

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The ice holes were found 50 miles away from Canada and so far scientists haven't figured out the exact cause of this intriguing sight.

"The holes may have been gnawed out by seals to create an open area in the ice through which they can surface to breathe", the report read.

But then again, maybe not.

NASA can only speculate about these mysterious ice circles in Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

On April 17, as part of its monthly Earth Matters blog, NASA posted a satellite image of what appeared to be a sheet of ice with curious holes in them and asked everyone to guess what it is. That would account for the wavy pattern on part of the ice, but the obvious holes are harder to explain.

"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", University of Maryland glaciologist Chris Shuman, who works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, explains.

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. We'll just have to wait for the next flyover and hope Sonntag gets a shot of an ice hole complete with a pop-up seal catching some air.

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