Antarctica breaks 20C temperature for the first time

In a record-breaking event on the 9 February, an island in Antarctica has exceeded 20C, as Seymour Island off the coast of the peninsula recorded 20.75C. The previous record for the entire Antarctic region was 19.8C, which was logged in January 1982. The Arctic region is also hitting record temperatures, as the previous year saw temperatures of 21C being recorded.

Brazilian scientist Carlos Schaefer, who logged the temperatures, said: “We can’t use this to anticipate climate changes in the future. It’s a data point. It’s simply a signal that something different is happening in that area.”

According to the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation, over the past 12 years, the glaciers have shown an accelerated retreat. Scientists on the Brazilian Antarctic programme have said that it appears to be influenced by shifts in ocean currents and El Nino events. “We have climatic changes in the atmosphere, which is closely related to changes in permafrost and the ocean. The whole thing is very interrelated.” Temperatures in the eastern and central side of Antarctica are relatively stable, compared with the west, where warming oceans are eating up the huge glaciers located there. 

The temperatures caused melt ponds to appear faster than usual. Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist observing the warming event, said: “I haven’t seen melt ponds develop this quickly in Antarctica,”  … You see these kinds of melt events in Alaska and Greenland, but not usually in Antarctica.” 

The overall direction that long-term trends seem to be heading in, is warming. Researchers expect the peninsula to heat up again soon, signalling bad news for the ice. Several climate change protests have been taking place, with many of the protestors crying out about how the climate crisis should be taken seriously before it is “too late”.


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Bryan Mfhaladi

April 2021
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