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World record temperature reached in Antarctic causing fears of catastrophe

  • April 8, 2024
  • 2 min read
World record temperature reached in Antarctic causing fears of catastrophe

On the 18th March, scientists at the Concordia research station on the east Antarctic plateau documented a unique event as they recorded the largest ever jump in temperature ever measured at a meteorological centre on the planet. Their instruments estimated a rise of 38.5C above a seasonal average, breaking a new world record.

This leap in the coldest place on the planet left the researchers stunned and speechless. “It is simply mind-boggling,” said Professor Michael Meredith, science leader at the British Antarctic Survey. “In sub-zero temperatures such a massive leap is tolerable but if we had a 40C rise in the UK now that would take temperatures for a spring day to over 50C – and that would be deadly for the population.”

This sentiment was shared by glaciologist Professor Martin Siegert from the University of Exeter. “No one in our community thought that anything like this could ever happen. It is extraordinary and a real concern,” he told the Observer. “We are now having to wrestle with something that is completely unprecedented.”

Poleward winds which had been previously making inroads into the atmosphere above Antarctica, are carrying warmer and moist air from lower places including Australia, deep into the continent. These are being blamed for the dramatic rise and “heatwave” that was experienced in Concordia. Why these currents are now able to reach such deep places within Antarctica is not yet known and nor is this an isolated event.

For the past two years, scientists have been “inundated” with rising numbers of reports of “disturbing” meteorological anomalies on the continent. Glaciers bordering the western ice-sheet are losing mass to the ocean at an ever increasing rate while sea ice levels have plunged dramatically. They had been stable for over a century.

These events have shown that while Antarctica was once thought of as being too cold to experience the early impacts of climate change, it is now “succumbing dramatically and rapidly” to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions being pumped into the atmosphere.

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