Did Antarctica Actually Hit Record High Temps?

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The media went wild Monday with reports that Antarctica hit its highest temperature on record, 63 .5 degrees Fahrenheit. But what the media hype glossed over one inconvenient truth: this temperature measurement wasn’t actually taken in Antarctica.

The Weather Underground blog reported that on March 24th Argentina’s Base Esperanza reported the temperature reached 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This came just one day after Argentina’s Marambio Base recorded a temperature of 63.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sounds like global warming, that is, until it’s revealed that Base Esperanza and Marambio Base are not located in the Antarctic Circle, but at the very tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s western side under South America. It’s not even clear if the world’s main meteorological body considers these bases as part of the south pole’s temperature record.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the all-time warmest temperature recorded Antarctica happened on January 5, 1974. The reading was taken from the Vanda Station, which is well within the Antarctic Circle. But even this station has only been occupied for short periods, mainly during Austral summers, according to the Underground.

Of course that didn’t stop media outlets from running with headlines like “Antarctica Recorded Its Hottest Temperature On Record This Week” or “Antarctica just had its warmest day on record.”

But the WMO has not yet looked into temperature highs for Antarctica, so “the Vanda reading and the recent observations at Esperanza and Marambio remain ‘unofficial,” according to WU. So for now, it’s not clear if these latest temperature readings even qualify as part of the Antarctic record.

It should also be noted, however, that Base Esperanza and Marambio Base are located in the very same region where scientists warn of massive ice sheet collapses, citing warm water flowing beneath the ice sheets and causing them to calve.

The Vanda Base, on the other hand, is located well within the Antarctic Circle right next to the Ross Ice Shelf. But even the Ross Ice Shelf has been said to be undergoing melting too due to warm water flowing beneath it.

Conversely, it’s also important to note it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so higher temperatures should be expected. Though WU notes that the record temperature readings “were made possible by an unusually extreme jet stream contortion that brought a strong ridge of high pressure over the Antarctic Peninsula, allowing warm air from South America to push southwards over Antarctica.”

“Satellite data, which began snapping pictures of Earth in 1979, has shown that Antarctica has increased in size by nearly 30 percent due to an increase in new, thicker sea ice, including around the Antarctic Peninsula,” writes Thomas Richard for the Examiner.

“It is also the most remote continent in the world, with international treaties preventing it from ever being developed or populated (aside from research stations),” Richard notes. “Nor are there temperature measuring devices covering the continent. It’s too large, too difficult to traverse, and completely impractical to implement.”

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