If you were paying attention to the news over the weekend, you probably already heard the startling news out of Antarctica from last Thursday. If not, you may want to sit down.
Late last week it was announced that the frozen continent had experienced the warmest temperature ever recorded there when scientists at an Argentine research station saw the mercury climb to 18.3ºC or 64.9ºF. That temperature was later verified by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (UNWMO) as well, promoting a spokesperson for the UNWMO to say “This is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime.” The new record breaks a previous mark, which was 17.5ºC (63.5ºF) and was set back in 2015.
It is important to point out that this temperature was recorded along the Antarctic Peninsula and not further into the interior of the continent. The Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on the planet at the moment, but even taking that into consideration, this is a surprisingly warm temperature. The UNWMO says that over the past 50 years, the average temperature in the Antarctic has gone up 3ºC (5.4ºF), which has resulted in 87% of the glaciers found there going into a full retreat. Over the past decade or so, the amount of melt-off from those glaciers had accelerated significantly. Just how significantly? Since 1979, the amount of ice that is lost in the Antarctic has gone up six fold, which could have dire consequences for our coastlines in the decades to come as rising sea levels reclaim parts of the other continents.
As you can probably imagine, this new record high temperature has set off alarm bells around the globe with environmentalists. Climate change is being blamed for the increasing temperatures, which are being felt across the globe, but especially in the polar regions of our planet. The North and South Pole have been described as the “canaries in the coal mine” when it comes to global warming, and at the moment those two canaries aren’t looking especially good.