UN assessment underway after Antarctica logs highest temperature on record

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Argentine weather scientists have reported a record-high temperature in Antarctica that reached temperatures hotter than Canada on Thursday.

The Servicio Meterorológico Nacional (SMN) recorded Antarctica’s temperature at 18.3 C, which is the highest registered since the station began recording data in 1961. The second-highest was 17.5 C on March 24, 2015, the agency added.

The SMN tweeted a photo of the thermometers at the Esperanza base to display its findings.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is now expected to verify whether the reading would amount to a new record or not.

“Everything we have seen thus far indicates a likely legitimate record but we will of course begin a formal evaluation of the record once we have full data from SMN and on the meteorological conditions surrounding the event,” WMO’s weather and climate extremes rapporteur, Randall Cerveny, said.

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“The record appears to be likely associated with what we call a regional ‘foehn’ event over the area,” Cerveny said, defining it as a rapid warming of air coming down a slope or mountain. (Similar to Canada’s “chinook.”)

According to the WMO, the Antarctic Peninsula is among the fastest-warming regions on Earth, and has warmed almost three degrees over the last half-century.

Some 87 per cent of glaciers along the west coast of the peninsula have retreated over that 50-year span, with most showing “an accelerated retreat” over the last 12 years, the WMO said.

Climate scientist at Victoria University of Wellington James Renwick was a member of the WMO and has verified previous records on the continent.

“Of course the record does need to be checked, but pending those checks, it’s a perfectly valid record and that station is well-maintained,” he told The Guardian.

“The reading is impressive as it’s only five years since the previous record was set and this is almost one degree centigrade higher,” he continued. “It’s a sign of the warming that has been happening there that’s much faster than the global average.”

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The higher temperature, he added, likely coincides with strong northwesterly winds moving down mountain slopes.

On Jan. 27, endurance swimmer and U.N. patron of the oceans Lewis Pugh swam in East Antarctica to show just how quickly the region is changing.

—With files from The Associated Press

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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