Antarctica’s hottest day? This week, it was colder in San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle and Chicago than it was in Antarctica – the geographic South Pole. Despite the fact that 98 percent of Antarctica’s surface is covered by an ice sheet over a mile thick, if you were there today, you could easily wear shorts and get away with it.
Writes The Washington Post: “Need another indicator of climate warming in Antarctica? A trio of weather bloggers at Weather Underground report the temperature there likely hit a record-breaking 63.5F (17.5C) Tuesday. The balmy reading was logged at Argentina’s Esperanza Base, which lies on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.”
The previous record for warmest Antarctica temps? The day before, when recorded temperatures reached 63.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Those readings were recorded at the Marambio Base, a small islet just off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Previous to this week’s noteworthy heat wave, the prior warmest temperature recorded on Earth’s southernmost continent was 62.8 degrees, recorded way back in 1961.
While the World Meteorological Organization has yet to confirm the record breaking mercury rise, local weather services did verify the two readings from Antarctica’s Esperanza Base and Marambio Base.
Antarctica’s mini heat wave may not be cause for global warming outcry, but it is mildly concerning, says Jordan Gerth, a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies in Wisconsin.
“One rare temperature doesn’t tell us a whole lot,” Gerth said. “But if we see these events happening more frequently over the next decade or so, it could be a larger story to tell.”
Gerth said the fact that the readings occurred at the outskirts of the continent are not as disconcerting had they occurred near the terrestrial southern pole.
“It’s a very strange occurrence to set a continental record,” he said. “But it did occur near the fringe, so it isn’t as significant as a reading reached near the actual pole.”
Still, the men stationed in Antarctica who took the readings, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, wrote on Weather Underground that the Antarctic Peninsula is “one of the fastest warming spots on Earth. A 2012 Climate Central post by Michael Lemonick documented how while the Earth as a whole warmed up by 1.3°F between 1900 and 2011, the Antarctic Peninsula warmed by 5°, forcing massive ice shelves to disintegrate and penguin colonies to collapse.”
The World Meteorological Organization may override the record-busting temperature however. The stations that logged in the readings are both on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which may be technically considered closer to the waters off the southern tip of Argentina.
Is Antarctica – considered the coldest place on Earth – in danger of melting away?
“If officials confirm that a new record was set, the information could serve as an ominous milestone for the Earth’s most desolate continent,” The Weather Network reported. “This news comes in the same week a study was published indicating that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting at an accelerated pace.”
What do you think of Antarctica’s hottest day on record?