During the third week of March, scientific stations in East Antarctica recorded unprecedented temperatures of up to 40ºC above the average for the month, the World Meteorological Organization warned.
The Russian station Vostok, located in the Center of the Antarctic ice shelf, reached a provisional maximum of -17.7 degrees Celsius, pulverising the previous record of -32.6. The Russian station, located at an altitude of 3,420 meters, has the official record for the lowest temperature in the world: -89.2°, according to the Organization’s Archive of Meteorological and Climatic Extremes.
The French-Italian research station Dome Concordia, also located in the highlands, recorded the highest temperature in its history in any month, some 40° above the March average.
Just a day earlier, weather stations had recorded rain in higher coastal areas, and even temperatures well above 0°.
“Rains are infrequent in Antarctica, but when they do occur they have consequences on ecosystems – especially penguin colonies – and on the mass balance of the ice sheet.
“Fortunately, there are no penguins anymore this time of year, but the fact that this is happening now in March is a reminder of what is at stake in the outlying regions: the fauna, the flora and the stability of the ice sheet,” affirmed Etienne Vignon and Christoph Genthon, French scientists of the organisation.
The experts added that, while the warm temperatures in the Concordia dome cause climatologists to be excited, “the rains on the coast in March are a cause for concern for everyone.”
According to the UN agency, the heat and humidity were mainly due to what is known as an atmospheric river, a narrow band of moisture concentration in the atmosphere coming from warm oceans.
However, scientists say it is still too early to say for sure whether it is due to climate change.