World, Environment

Record 18°C Antarctic temperature raises climate fears

UN weather watchers describe unusually warm climes at northern tip of Antarctic peninsula this week

James Reinl   | 07.02.2020
Record 18°C Antarctic temperature raises climate fears

UNITED NATIONS

The weather-watching body of the United Nations on Friday described a record high temperature of 18 degrees Celsius in the Antarctic region this week in the latest worrying sign of climate change.

Argentina’s national meteorological service (SMN) measured a temperature of 18.3°C at the Argentine research base, Esperanza, on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, on Thursday — topping the former record of 17.5°C from March 2015.

“The World Meteorological Organization [WMO] said that the record reading taken in the north of the continent would be considered unusual, even in the warmer summer months,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Friday.

“Experts at WMO will now verify whether the temperature extreme is a new record for the Antarctic continent, with the Antarctic Peninsula being among the fastest-warming regions of the planet [of] almost 3°C over the last 50 years.”

In a statement, Randall Cerveny, the WMO’s weather and climate extremes rapporteur, said record-keeping was weak at the earth’s polar caps and that better data would help keep track of weather patterns and melting ice.

“Everything we have seen thus far indicates a likely legitimate record but we will, of course, begin a formal evaluation of the record once we have full data from SMN and on the meteorological conditions surrounding the event,” said Cerveny.

“The record appears to be likely associated — in the short term — with what we call a regional ‘foehn’ event over the area: a rapid warming of air coming down a slope or mountain.”

Last year, a landmark report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that hundreds of millions of people are at risk from sea levels rising as the world’s polar ice caps melt.

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