Antarctic scientists have reported a new record temperature of 20.75 degrees Celsius (69.35 Fahrenheit) breaking the 20-degree barrier on the continent for the first time, a researcher said on Thursday.
“In Antarctica we would never have seen a temperature that is so high,” Brazilian scientist Carlos Schaefer told AFP.
He noted that the reading, taken on February 9 at a monitoring station on an island off the northern tip of the continent, “has no meaning in terms of a climate-change pattern,” since it is a one-off temperature and not part of a long-term data set.
Yet reports that the frozen continent now records temperatures in the comparatively balmy 20s is likely to spark more concerns about the planet’s warming.
The reading was taken at Seymour Island, part of a chain of the peninsula curving out of Antarctica’s northern tip.
Soil scientist Schaefer said the reading was taken as part of a 20-year-old research project on the impact of climate change on the permafrost in the area.
The previous peak was in the 19s, he said.
“We can not use that to predict future climate change. It’s a data point,” he said.
“It’s just a signal that something else is happening in that region.” But, he added, a temperature that was never reported high in Antarctica.
In Antarctica, increasing the melt-off from glaciers and particularly ice sheets helps drive sea level rises, threatening coastal megacities and small island nations.
The news came a week after Argentina’s National Meteorological Service reported Argentina’s hottest recorded day at midday at the Esperanza base near the tip of the Antarctic peninsula: 18.3 degrees Celsius.
On 24 March 2015, it said, the previous record stood at 17.5 degrees. This records temperatures in the Antarctic since 1961.
The past decade was the hottest on record, the UN said last month, with 2019 being the second-hottest year ever after 2016.