Thursday, 2 March 2017

Warm In Antartica

Antarctica is on fire: new historical record of high temperatures on a continent less and less frozen

We've been talking about things in Antarctica for months now, they're getting ugly. The emergence of lakes, the retreat of ice or the evacuation of research bases are only symptoms of a problem that has long been cooking with increasing fire at the South Pole.

Yesterday, as if that were not enough, the World Meteorological Organization announced that it had beaten the record of high temperatures for the first time since 1974: a wonderful 17.5 degrees that have made, again, jump all the alarms.

A very warm March
Due to the extreme conditions of Antarctica and the technological problems it poses to measure there, Antarctic temperatures usually take time to be certified. Specifically these were recorded 17.5 degrees on March 24, 2015 in Hope, an Argentina based in the north of the Antarctic Peninsula which also has the honor of being the only permanent civil settlement located on the mainland (Villa Las Estrellas, the Chilean settlement, is on the island of King George).

In previous record was recorded in January of 1974 in the (already abandoned) New Zealand station of Vanda. The record temperature of the Antarctic plateau (ie, the continent's former) is still maintained at -7 degrees Celsius since December 28, 1989.

Too many unknowns
Beyond the concern of many experts, the truth is that our knowledge of Antarctica is very poor. Its 14 million square kilometers (7 times the size of Mexico and 28 of Spain) are poorly studied and the details of its regional climates remain, for the most part, a mystery.

Are these temperatures high? Yes, considering the historical record and the trend, it seems . But we must not forget that our knowledge of the regional climatic peculiarities of Antarctica leaves much to be desired and these temperatures were recorded in a context of general warming driven by an especially strong El NiƱo. We will have to be aware of the future of the most remote continent in the world.

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