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Natural Awakenings Tucson

South Pole Registers Historic Temperature

Melting glacier in the South Pole

Romolo Tavani/AdobeStock.com

Normally, temperatures fall with the end of the southern summer, but the Dumont d’Urville station, on Antarctica, registered record temperatures for March of 40.82° F at a time of the year when readings are usually already sub-zero. Gaetan Heymes, of France Meteo, describes the unseasonably mild weather as a historic event. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center says that Antarctica’s sea ice fell below 772,204 square miles in late February for the first time since 1979.

Around the same time, the Conger Ice Shelf, as big as Los Angeles, collapsed into the sea and there was sufficient atmospheric moisture to produce a significant snowfall. While researchers can’t definitively say that climate change is to blame, Jonathan Wille, a postdoctoral researcher at the Université Grenoble Alpes, in France, notes, “It was something we didn’t think was possible in Antarctica—the magnitude of heat, especially in what should be the cold season in Antarctica. We’ve never seen the atmosphere behave like this over Antarctica.” 

The heat wave and dramatic inland snowfall highlight the importance of a better understanding of the complicated dynamics of atmospheric rivers that maintain the ice sheet now, but could be cause for concern in the future. Understanding these patterns better could be the key to learning the polar region’s fate.

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