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Antarctica just saw its all-time hottest day ever

An iceberg bobs in the water of the Antarctic Peninsula.
An iceberg bobs in the water of the Antarctic Peninsula.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Antarctica just experienced its single hottest day ever recorded, hitting a high of 69.35 degrees Fahrenheit (20.75 degrees Celsius) on Feb. 9, a team of Argentine researchers reported.

This is the first time the temperature on the continent has exceeded 20 degrees C (68 F), the researchers told news site AFP.com, but not the first time the continent has seen a new record-breaking high this month. On Feb. 6, a research station on the Antarctic Peninsula (the continent's northwest tip, closest to South America) reported a high of 64.9 F (18.3 C) — surpassing the previous record of 63.5 F (17.5 C), set in March 2015.

The new 69-degree high was recorded at Argentina's Marambio research base, located on Seymour Island, part of an island chain off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The peninsula is one of the fastest-warming regions on Earth, according to the World Meteorological Organization — an agency of the United Nations (UN) — with average temperatures rising 5.4 F (3 C) over the last 50 years. 

Related: One of Antarctica's fastest-shrinking glaciers just lost an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C.

At the same time, annual ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet increased more than sixfold. As the surrounding ocean warms, huge chunks of ice break off and enter the sea, slowly diminishing the continent's icy coastline. If a glacier retreats faster than new ice can form to replace it, that glacier could collapse, potentially spilling billions of tons of ice into the water and contributing to sea level rise. According to NASA, Antarctica's two fastest-shrinking glaciers — the Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier — contain enough vulnerable ice between them to raise sea levels by 4 feet (1.2 meters).

The new record-breaking temperature also fits with global warming trends over the past decade. According to the U.N., 2010 to 2019 was the single hottest decade on record, with 2019 ranking as the second-hottest year ever (the hottest was 2016). 

The warming trend is already continuing into the new year: January 2020 was rated the hottest January in the 141-year climate record. 

Originally published on Live Science.

  • TheEmeraldPost
    is it true that there are hot rivers under the ice? And warm caverns?
    That would set Antarctica apart from general global warming concerns.
    Reply
  • Nevada Smith
    Our climate goes though long term and short term cycles. Right now we are in a long term warming cycle that started 26,000 years ago, continues today and will continue into the foreseeable future. For all our puny efforts to change the natural cycles of Earth, we might as well make Earth turn backwards.
    Reply
  • Hartmann352
    I would rest a bit easy.

    Experts at The Field Museum in Chicago are developing an exhibit to showcase dinosaurs that once populated a far different and much warmer Antarctica, Tom Skwerski, director of exhibition operations at The Field Museum, recently explained. Exhibit designers had to overturn their own misconceptions about that ancient world and its inhabitants.

    Whereas modern-day Antarctica is covered by glacial ice and snow, the landscape was once covered in lush greenery during the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs roamed the land. The exhibit needed to connect visitors to both of those worlds, Skwerski said. Visual effects that recall the auroral displays of the southern lights will accompany immersive soundscapes, to create an exhibit environment that transports visitors back to Antarctica as it appeared hundreds of millions of years ago, he said.

    The exhibit also addresses the physical challenges, both recent and historical, of conducting scientific work in Antarctica. In an introductory section in the exhibit, an interactive display offers users the opportunity to select expedition gear from a modern list or from what was available to early-20th-century explorers. Other exhibit highlights include a skeleton and a reconstruction of the carnivorous Antarctic dinosaur Cryolophosaurus ellioti, as well as dioramas showing early sauropods, Skwerski said.

    Yes, Antarctica was once home to numerous dinosaurs even farther back in the Jurassic Period. Cryolophosaurus, Glacialisaurus, and the tritylodont belong to groups that possessed widespread distributions. More important, these dinosaurs differed with respect to the continent on which their nearest relative was discovered. Fossils of the closest relative of Cryolophosaurus were recovered from North America, while the closest relative of Glacialisaurus’s group was found in Asia. This lack of congruence between biogeographic patterns was consistent with a rapid dispersal between continents. Remarkably, many of the species found on Antarctica's Mt. Kirkpatrick, such as Cryolophosaurus and the tritylodont were larger than their relatives from more-temperate latitudes. Which seems to fly in the face of many studies showing that the larger dinosaurs were more often found farther north.

    In any case, to support these giants, the lush forests, and the numerous predators on the Antarctic Continent, the temperatures would have been far higher in those days when the dinosaurs ruled the bottom of the world than this on 69F day.
    Reply
  • Nevada Smith
    Hartmann352 said:
    I would rest a bit easy.

    Experts at The Field Museum in Chicago are developing an exhibit to showcase dinosaurs that once populated a far different and much warmer Antarctica, Tom Skwerski, director of exhibition operations at The Field Museum, recently explained. Exhibit designers had to overturn their own misconceptions about that ancient world and its inhabitants.

    Whereas modern-day Antarctica is covered by glacial ice and snow, the landscape was once covered in lush greenery during the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs roamed the land. The exhibit needed to connect visitors to both of those worlds, Skwerski said. Visual effects that recall the auroral displays of the southern lights will accompany immersive soundscapes, to create an exhibit environment that transports visitors back to Antarctica as it appeared hundreds of millions of years ago, he said.

    The exhibit also addresses the physical challenges, both recent and historical, of conducting scientific work in Antarctica. In an introductory section in the exhibit, an interactive display offers users the opportunity to select expedition gear from a modern list or from what was available to early-20th-century explorers. Other exhibit highlights include a skeleton and a reconstruction of the carnivorous Antarctic dinosaur Cryolophosaurus ellioti, as well as dioramas showing early sauropods, Skwerski said.

    Yes, Antarctica was once home to numerous dinosaurs even farther back in the Jurassic Period. Cryolophosaurus, Glacialisaurus, and the tritylodont belong to groups that possessed widespread distributions. More important, these dinosaurs differed with respect to the continent on which their nearest relative was discovered. Fossils of the closest relative of Cryolophosaurus were recovered from North America, while the closest relative of Glacialisaurus’s group was found in Asia. This lack of congruence between biogeographic patterns was consistent with a rapid dispersal between continents. Remarkably, many of the species found on Antarctica's Mt. Kirkpatrick, such as Cryolophosaurus and the tritylodont were larger than their relatives from more-temperate latitudes. Which seems to fly in the face of many studies showing that the larger dinosaurs were more often found farther north.

    In any case, to support these giants, the lush forests, and the numerous predators on the Antarctic Continent, the temperatures would have been far higher in those days when the dinosaurs ruled the bottom of the world than this on 69F day.


    I understand what you are saying. However in those days, Antarctica was closer to the equator, more in the temperate zone. Even in a tropical environment there can't be lush tropical growth with 6 month long nights.

    Jurassic Period Facts
    Reply
  • Tanis H
    Nevada Smith said:
    Our climate goes though long term and short term cycles. Right now we are in a long term warming cycle that started 26,000 years ago, continues today and will continue into the foreseeable future. For all our puny efforts to change the natural cycles of Earth, we might as well make Earth turn backwards.
    Why would you assume we can't effect global weather? We have caused species extinction. We have caused massive deforestation. Humans have caused all kinds of global devastation.
    Reply
  • Nevada Smith
    Tanis H said:
    Why would you assume we can't effect global weather? We have caused species extinction. We have caused massive deforestation. Humans have caused all kinds of global devastation.

    We can on a local level. For example we didn't cause the 1930s drought, but our farming methods did contribute to the Dust Bowl. Or North Africa was once the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. That ended with the 7th century Islamic invasion. The Muslims were herders, Their herds destroyed the cropland and changed the nature and climate of North Africa. But both of these were regional phenomena, not worldwide.

    What is interesting is the increase in forests. What we lack in the quality of virgin or old growth forest, we are trying to make up in quantity. More trees than there were 100 years ago? It's true!

    The question we need to be asking is "How much effect, if any, does man have on the climate?" But we can't have an honest dialogue because environmentalism has become the religion of the left. Any dissension is treated as heresy and the heretic is burnt at the academia stake.

    The right can be equally unreasonable Rush Limbaugh: Media Is 'Lying' About Global Warming
    Reply
  • Broadlands
    Yes, humans have caused all kinds of global devastation. But one thing humans cannot do is take the necessary hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 we have added out of the atmosphere and safely store it geologically. One part-per-million of CO2 is almost 3,000 million metric tons. Many more than one ppm would be required. And, lowering carbon emissions doesn't lower the atmospheric burden anyhow.
    Reply
  • Wickee
    No evidence to support this headline whatsoever. The highest temperature on record perhaps but we haven a clue or even a guess to say "ever". Misleading and dishonest teasers don't jive well with "science" neither does trying to foster public opinion about a political issue which is what that headline was intended to do.

    What they can say is that in the time we've been tracking and recording temperatures which is about
    .00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%

    Add about 20 more zeros and that's the fraction of the time we've kept data in relation to the age if the planet.

    So we have no idea, nor is it statistically likely that this headline is truthful. Sorry. This publication loses credibility daily.
    Reply