A research base in Antarctica has recorded its hottest day on record on the continent, logging a temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius.
Experts say Antarctica is one of the fastest warming regions globally
Antarctic ice sheet melting increased six-fold between 1979 and 2017
Increased temperatures are predicted to cause major sea level rise
The reading, recorded by Argentina’s national weather service at its Esperanza base, topped the former record of 17.5 degrees tallied in March 2015.
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) spokeswoman Clare Nullis said the temperature “is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica even in the summertime.”
“We hear a lot about the Arctic. But, you know, this particular part of the Antarctic Peninsula is warming very quickly,” she said.
“It’s among the fastest warming regions of the planet.”
The nearby Marambio base reported another record temperature of 14.1 degrees on Thursday — the hottest day there for February since 1971.
The WMO’s committee that draws on the agency’s weather and climate archives is now expected to verify whether the Esperanza reading would amount to a new record.
WMO said the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s northwest tip near South America, is among the fastest warming regions on Earth — at almost three degrees Celsius over the last half-century.
“Over the past 50 years it’s warmed almost three degrees Celsius,” said Ms Nullis.
The record in the wider Antarctic region is 19.8 degrees in January, 1982.
Some 87 per cent of glaciers along the west coast of the peninsula have retreated over that 50-year span, with most showing an accelerated retreat over the last 12 years, WMO said.
Climate change and Antarctica
The rate of melting in Antarctica has almost tripled in the past five years, according to recent data. Now scientists have attempted to quantify which animals will be the winners and losers as the frozen continent thaws.
Scientists believe global warming has caused so much melting at the south pole that the giant ice sheet is now on course to disintegrate.
This would see an eventual global sea level rise of at least three metres over centuries.
Projected sea level rise from the Antarctic is forecast to be up to 15 metres by 2500.
“The amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017,” Ms Nullis added, citing images showing cracks in glaciers in Antarctica.
“The melting from these glaciers, you know, means we are in big trouble when it comes to sea level rise.”
A study published last year showed that the rate of ice melting in Antarctica had almost tripled over the previous five years, which is expected to impact the wellbeing of species such as humpback whales, emperor penguins and fur seals.