In the Antarctic, It Was 70 Degrees Above Normal

'Antarctic climatology has been rewritten'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2022 7:52 AM CDT
It's Been Freakishly Warm at Earth's Poles
In this file photo, a drop of water falls off an iceberg melting in the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord near Nuuk in southwestern Greenland.   (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Based on their public reactions, it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to say that weather scientists' minds are blown by how warm things got over the weekend at the north and south poles. In the north, temperatures at some Arctic stations were about 50 degrees above normal, reports the AP. In the south, it was more like 70 degrees above normal. The old records weren't just broken, they were obliterated. "Antarctic climatology has been rewritten," is how researcher Stefano Di Battista put it, per the Washington Post. "Stunning," says Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. “Wow. I have never seen anything like this in the Antarctic,” says University of Colorado ice scientist Ted Scambos.

"Warm," of course, is relative. In Antarctica, for example, a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded at the Concordia station, which might seem chilly until you realize it's typically 60-below at this time of year. That's part of the oddity: March is the start of autumn in the Antarctic, when the region is losing about 25 minutes of sunlight a day, notes the Post. "At this time of year, the Antarctic should be rapidly cooling after its summer, and the Arctic only slowly emerging from its winter, as days lengthen," explains the Guardian. "For both poles to show such heating at once is unprecedented." What's more, Antarctica has not been warming as quickly as other parts of the planet in recent years, particularly the Arctic.

So how to explain the polar weirdness? Researchers have macro and micro answers. In Antarctica, a giant "atmospheric river" that brought in warm, moist air is blamed. In the Arctic, warm Atlantic air rolled in off the coast of Greenland, per the AP. But more generally, the events raise the specter of climate change, says Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. “The warming of the Arctic and Antarctic is cause for concern, and the increase in extreme weather events—of which these are an example—is a cause for concern as well,” he tells the Guardian. “The models have done a good job projecting the overall warming, but we’ve argued that extreme events are exceeding model projections. These events drive home the urgency of action.” (More Antarctica stories.)

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