There is a mysterious connection between Antarctica and the Pacific Ocean

Japanese researcher Shigeru Aoki found that the higher the temperature of the seawater in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the more likely it is that ice will break up in the eastern part of Antarctica (at a distance of almost 17,000 km).

In April 2016, near the Japanese research station Syowa in Lyutzov-Holm Bay (in the eastern part of Antarctica), experts noticed a fast ice split - fixed ice along the coast. This was the first major case since 1998, and the cause was unknown.

Shigeru Aoki, an associate professor at Hokkaido University (Japan), decided to study satellite images from 1997 to determine the possible relationship between fast ice split and global climatic conditions. The researcher collected all the data received from the Syowa station, as well as information about the sea surface temperature from around the world.

Fast ice splits in eastern Antarctica are most often observed in April, so Aoki investigated this particular time period. He studied the latitudes where the frozen ice cracked and compared the data with information about atmospheric pressure and sea surface temperature.

Aoki S., Geophysical Research Letters

According to the study, ice cracking in April has a certain degree of correlation with atmospheric pressure at sea level and other climatic indicators. In particular, a particularly strong relationship was observed between sea surface temperature at Syowa station and the tropical Pacific Ocean at a distance of almost 17,000 kilometers: ice cracking was observed precisely when the temperature of the sea water in the ocean was high enough.

At the end of 2015, a few months before the large-scale split of land-fast ice in the eastern part of Antarctica, the El Niño Current raised the water temperature in the tropical Pacific Ocean to one of the highest values. In addition, the ice break in 1998 also coincided with the most intense El Niño in ocean history.

"The correlation mechanism has not yet been fully established, but we can already hypothesize that the high temperature of the seawater in the tropical Pacific Ocean causes atmospheric waves that eventually reach the sea at Syowa station, where the frozen ice breaks." says Aoki.