“Esperanza“, an Argentine research base on the northern tip of Antarctica, recorded a temperature of 18.3 degrees this Thursday, a historical record that leaves behind the 17.5 degrees Celsius recorded in Antarctica since March 2015, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today.
18.3°C! – new highest temperature recorded for continental #Antarctica, yesterday at Esperanza Base, the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, 63°23′S; previous record was 17.5°C in 2015 also at Esperanza @SMN_Argentina; records began at the station in 1961, pic Nestor Franco pic.twitter.com/1qhbv0rDQj
— The Antarctic Report (@AntarcticReport) February 7, 2020
“This is a temperature we do not associate with Antarctica, even in the summer season,” said WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis in Geneva. Experts from the agency will form a special committee to verify if it is indeed a new record for the frozen continent (¿¿¿???), for which they will analyze all the data they manage to collect.
A less and less frozen Antarctica
WMO’s expert on Climate and Climate Extremes, Randal Cerveny, says that “everything we have seen so far indicates that this is probably a legitimate record, but of course we will make a formal assessment. These data will come from the Argentine Meteorological Service, which will be evaluated along with the weather conditions that have been presented in recent times.
The WMO explained on Friday that the record seems to be related in the short term to what is called “foehn wind“, which is a warm wind coming down a slope.
“It’s important to verify this fact because Antarctica is an area where we don’t have enough observations and the data is very scattered. Verifying records like this will help us get a clearer picture of what is happening on this continent,” explains Nullis.
The region where the record has been observed is the fastest warming region on the planet
However, what is known for now about Antarctica is worrying as the region where the record has been observed is the closest to the southern tip of South America and the fastest warming region on the planet.
“We talk a lot about the Arctic, but this specific part of the Antarctic Peninsula is warming very fast. In the last 50 years the temperature there has increased by almost 3 degrees,” the spokeswoman says.
Typical temperatures range from -10 degrees on the coast to -60 degrees in the higher parts of the interior
For this reason, the accumulation of the ice sheet that covers the continent and is lost each year has increased at least 6 times between 1979 and 2017.
Most of this loss of ice mass occurs through melting, particularly in the western part of the territory, which covers 14 million square kilometres and where the usual temperatures range from -10 degrees on the coast to -60 degrees in the higher parts of the interior.
Its icy cover reaches a depth of up to 4.8 kilometres and stores 90% of all the world’s fresh water, which, if it were to melt, would raise the sea level by some 60 metres… a dream for all surfers, a nightmare for the whole world.
And if everything continues as it goes, perhaps in the not too distant future, we will have to sunbathe in Antarctica.