SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: February 13, 2020
SNIP: The Antarctic has registered a temperature of more than 20C (68F) for the first time on record, prompting fears of climate instability in the world’s greatest repository of ice.
The 20.75C logged by Brazilian scientists at Seymour Island on 9 February was almost a full degree higher than the previous record of 19.8C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.
It follows another recent temperature record: on 6 February an Argentinian research station at Esperanza measured 18.3C, which was the highest reading on the continental Antarctic peninsula.
These records will need to be confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, but they are consistent with a broader trend on the peninsula and nearby islands, which have warmed by almost 3C since the pre-industrial era – one of the fastest rates on the planet.
Scientists, who collect the data from remote monitoring stations every three days, described the new record as “incredible and abnormal”.
Schaefer said the temperature of the peninsula, the South Shetland Islands and the James Ross archipelago, which Seymour is part of, has been erratic over the past 20 years. After cooling in the first decade of this century, it has warmed rapidly.
While temperatures in eastern and central Antarctica are relatively stable, there are growing concerns about west Antarctica, where warming oceans are undermining the huge Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers. Until now, this has led to a relatively low amount of sea-level rise, but this could change rapidly if there is a sustained jump in temperature.
On a recent trip with Greenpeace, the Guardian saw glaciers that have retreated by more than 100 metres in Discovery Bay and large swathes of land on King George Island where the snow melted in little more than a week, leaving dark exposed rock. While some degree of melt occurs every summer, scientists said it had been more evident in recent years, with temperatures rising more quickly in winter. This is believed to be behind an alarming decline of more than 50% in chinstrap penguin colonies, which are dependent on sea ice.