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polynia

a semipermanent area of open water in sea ice. Polynyas are generally believed to be of two types. Coastal polynyas characteristically lie just beyond landfast ice, i.e., ice that is anchored to the coast and stays in place throughout the winter. They are thought to be caused chiefly by persistent local offshore winds, such as the foehn, or katabatic (downward-driving), winds typically found off the coasts of Greenland and Antarctica. Open-ocean polynyas, the larger and longer-lasting of the two types, form within the ice cover and are believed to be caused by the upwelling of deep warmer water. This type is best exemplified by the vast Weddell Polynya in the antarctic Weddell Sea.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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