Derrick Bryson Taylor
c.2020 The New York Times Company
Antarctica, the coldest, windiest and driest continent on Earth, set a record high temperature Thursday, underscoring the global warming trend, researchers said.
Esperanza, Argentina’s research station on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, reached 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18.2 degrees Celsius, breaking the previous record of 63.5 degrees set on March 24, 2015, according to Argentina’s National Meteorological Service. The station has been recording temperatures since 1961.
The temperature at Esperanza, where it is summer, was comparable to the weather in Los Angeles and Huntsville, Alabama, where the high temperatures were 64 Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Weather and Climate Extremes Archive, a committee of the World Meteorological Organization, will verify the temperature, the organization said in a news release.
Temperatures on the continent range on average from 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius) on the Antarctic coast, to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60 degrees Celsius) at higher elevations of the interior, the meteorological organization said.
Its ice sheet, which is nearly 3 miles thick, contains 90% of the world’s fresh water.
The Antarctic Peninsula, the northwest tip near South America, is among the fastest warming regions of the planet, the meteorological organization said. Antarctica is about the size of the United States and Mexico combined, according to NASA.
The high temperature is in keeping with the earth’s overall warming trend, which is in large part caused by emissions of greenhouse gases.
When the ice sheets melt, the water has nowhere to go but into the ocean and will affect shorelines around the world, Maureen Raymo, a research professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, said Saturday.
“I think this is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” she said. “This is the foreshadowing of what is to come. It’s exactly in line of what we’ve been seeing for decades” — that air temperature records are increasingly broken.