The world’s coldest region recorded the most intense heatwave ever last year, according to a study published last month.
In March 2022, temperatures in Eastern Antarctica spiked about 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above the monthly average, said the study “The Largest Ever Recorded Heatwave – Characteristics and Attribution of the Antarctic Heatwave of March 2022”.
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On March 18, the hottest day of the heatwave, the temperature rose to -10C (-14F) – a stark contrast to the -54C (-65.2F) average for March.
Temperatures remained above the previous -31C (-23.8F) record for March over three consecutive days, including during the night-time.
Researchers determined that the heatwave stemmed from unusual air circulation patterns near Australia.
In just four days, a warm mass of air from Southern Australia was able to move into East Antarctica, “probably the first time that at least it’s happened that fast”, Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, author of the study, was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.
The heatwave took place shortly after record sea ice minima in February 2022, according to the study.
However, sea surface temperature anomalies in the Southern Ocean had a minimal effect on the magnitude of the heatwave.
“The heatwave was made two degrees Celsius [3.6F] warmer by climate change, and end of 21st century heatwaves may be an additional five to six degrees Celsius [9-10.8F] warmer,” said the study.
In February 2023, sea ice minima reached a new record low due to rising global temperatures. This year’s minimum was 20 percent lower than the average over the last 40 years.
An increase in the frequency of such events over the next 50 or even 100 years might trigger some effects that maybe we did not have on our radar, added Blanchard-Wrigglesworth.
Last month, researchers reported that emperor penguins were perishing at an alarming rate in breeding grounds of West Antarctica towards the end of 2022.
Sea ice eroding due to warming was giving way to the penguins’ tiny feet, causing them to drown or freeze to death.