Antarctic temps 70 degrees hotter than normal; ‘This is a Pacific Northwest 2021 heat wave kind of event’ – OregonLive
Temperatures 70 degrees above normal in eastern Antarctica have baffled scientists, who say that the “unprecedented heat wave” has already changed the way experts think about the Antarctic climate system.
“‘It is impossible,’ we would have said until two days ago,” Antarctic climatology expert Stefano Di Battista wrote on Twitter Friday. “From today (March 18) the Antarctic climatology has been rewritten.”
The extreme temperature increase in East Antarctica, which is home to the coldest locations on the planet, was registered across the region, experts said.
Temperatures at the Concordia Research Station, a French-Italian research station on the Antarctic Plateau, reached 10 degrees (minus 12.2 degrees Celsius) — or about 70 degrees warmer than average.
“This is when temperatures should be rapidly falling since the summer solstice in December,” tweeted Jonathan Wille, a researcher studying polar meteorology at Universite Grenoble Alpes in France.
“This is a Pacific Northwest 2021 heat wave kind of event,” he wrote, referring to the extreme heat wave that affected much of Western North America from late June through mid-July last year. “Never supposed to happen,” he added.
Earth’s poles are undergoing simultaneous freakish extreme heat with areas of the Arctic more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) warmer than average. Parts of Antarctica registered more than 70 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) warmer than average.
The two-mile high Concordia weather station was at 10 degrees (-12.2 degrees Celsius), which is about 70 degrees warmer than average, while the even higher Vostok station hit a shade above 0 degrees (-17.7 degrees Celsius), beating its all-time record by about 27 degrees (15 degrees Celsius), according to a tweet from extreme weather record tracker Maximiliano Herrera.
The coastal Terra Nova Base was far above freezing at 44.6 degrees (7 degrees Celsius).
It caught officials at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, by surprise because they were paying attention to the Arctic where it was 50 degrees warmer than average and areas around the North Pole were nearing or at the melting point, which is really unusual for mid-March, said center ice scientist Walt Meier.
“They are opposite seasons. You don’t see the north and the south (poles) both melting at the same time,” Meier told The Associated Press Friday evening. “It’s definitely an unusual occurrence.”
“It’s pretty stunning,” Meier added.
“Wow. I have never seen anything like this in the Antarctic,” said University of Colorado ice scientist Ted Scambos, who returned recently from an expedition to the continent.
“Not a good sign when you see that sort of thing happen,” said University of Wisconsin meteorologist Matthew Lazzara.
Lazzara monitors temperatures at East Antarctica’s Dome C-ii and logged 14 degrees (-10 degrees Celsius) Friday, where the normal is -45 degrees (-43 degrees Celsius): “That’s a temperature that you should see in January, not March. January is summer there. That’s dramatic.”
Both Lazzara and Meier said what happened in Antarctica is probably just a random weather event and not a sign of climate change. But if it happens again or repeatedly then it might be something to worry about and part of global warming, they said.
The Antarctic warm spell was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Antarctic continent as a whole on Friday was about 8.6 degrees (4.8 degrees Celsius) warmer than a baseline temperature between 1979 and 2000, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer, based on U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather models. That 8-degree heating over an already warmed-up average is unusual, think of it as if the entire United States was 8 degrees hotter than normal, Meier said.
At the same time, on Friday the Arctic as a whole was 6 degrees (3.3 degrees) warmer than the 1979 to 2000 average.
By comparison, the world as a whole was only 1.1 degrees (0.6 degrees Celsius) above the 1979 to 2000 average. Globally the 1979 to 2000 average is about half a degree (.3 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average.
What makes the Antarctic warming really weird is that the southern continent — except for its vulnerable peninsula which is warming quickly and losing ice rapidly — has not been warming much, especially when compared to the rest of the globe, Meier said.
Antarctica did set a record for the lowest summer sea ice — records go back to 1979 — with it shrinking to 741,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers) in late February, the snow and ice data center reported.
What likely happened was “a big atmospheric river” pumped in warm and moist air from the Pacific southward, Meier said.
And in the Arctic, which has been warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe and is considered vulnerable to climate change, warm Atlantic air was coming north off the coast of Greenland.
Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist and extreme weather tracker who runs the “Extreme Temperatures Around the World” website, tweeted that the high temperature in Vostok broke the previous record by nearly 27 degrees (15 degrees Celsius),
Antarctica’s Terra Nova Bay reached 44.6 degrees (7 degrees Celsius), he added in his tweet, writing that “extraordinary anomalies in #Antarctica lead to historic records today.”
The extreme weather was also registered in the Arctic, where temperatures were more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) warmer than average.
Walt Meier, an ice scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, called the situation on both poles “pretty stunning.”
“They are opposite seasons. You don’t see the north and the south (poles) both melting at the same time,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s definitely an unusual occurrence.”
–The Associated Press and Tribune News Service