Experts have measured what is expected the highest temperature ever on Antarctica: 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit (17.5 Celsius). They have made measurements at Argentina’s Esperanza Base, on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, according to the meteorological website Weather Underground. The preceding hottest recognized temperature on Antarctica was 62.8°F (17.1°C), recorded at Esperanza Base on April 24, 1961.
The Weather Underground called last week’s temperatures a remarkable heat wave, though they happened during the end of the austral summer when Antarctic temperatures are naturally highest. The temperature has yet to be certified as an official record for the continent by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization).
Therefore it is hard to draw many conclusions from a single temperature record, cautions Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.
Last year Antarctica also logged a record cold temperature. What is more imperative are the long-term trends, says Schmidt. And when it comes to Antarctica, he points out, the past few years “have actually been quite complex.
The world’s ocean has been warming rapidly, absorbing much of the planet’s excess heat. The large glaciers around Antarctica that come in contact with the warming water have been melting rapidly. But some other glaciers farther inland on the continent are actually growing. That has not been reasonably explained.
The science is mostly intricate because the ozone hole continues to affect the region’s climate in ways that aren’t well understood. The global circulation of winds and currents remains a test for researchers to grasp. One record warm temperature doesn’t cut through all that intricacy.
When it comes to the entire planet, the Earth remains on track to warm by an average of at least two degrees C (3.6 degrees F) by the end of the century, experts report, though exactly how much is expected to depend on countries’ abilities to lessen emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.