Antarctica’s last 6 months were the coldest on record

In a 12 months of utmost warmth, Antarctica’s final six months have been the coldest on document.

“For the polar darkness interval, from April by September, the typical temperature was -60.9 levels Celsius, a document for these months,” the Nationwide Snow and Ice Knowledge Heart (NSIDC) stated.

The final six months can also be the darkest interval on the South Pole, which is the place the identify polar darkness (additionally referred to as polar evening) comes from. Right here, the solar units for the final time across the spring equinox, and doesn’t rise once more till close to the autumn equinox six months later.

For the complete Antarctic continent, the winter of 2021 was the second-coldest on document, with the “temperature for June, July, and August 3.4 levels Celsius decrease than the 1981 to 2010 common at -62.9 levels Celsius,” in response to a brand new report from the NSIDC.

That is the second-coldest winter (June-July-August months) on document, behind solely 2004 within the 60-year climate document at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station,” the NSIDC stated.

“The bizarre chilly was attributed to 2 prolonged intervals of stronger-than-average encircling winds across the continent, which are likely to isolate the ice sheet from hotter circumstances,” the NSIDC defined. “A powerful upper-atmosphere polar vortex was noticed as nicely, resulting in a major ozone gap. The ozone gap seems to have peaked as of this submit, with preliminary measurements reporting that it’s within the higher quartile (prime 25 %) of ozone discount occasions since 1979.”

Even within the austral summer season months of November by February, it by no means actually will get “heat” on the South Pole. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which sits at an elevation of two,835 metres, has a mean month-to-month temperature within the austral summer season of -28°C.

The Nationwide Science Basis, which runs the US Antarctic program, factors out the winter temperatures have had minimal impression in science assist from the South Pole, since a lot of the deep fieldwork happens within the austral summer season. Nonetheless, the polar environments are nonetheless difficult.

“Everybody adapts to the chilly in a different way, and right now’s gear makes it a lot safer than within the days when Shackleton and the opposite explorers had little specialised gear; that they had solely wool socks and leather-based sneakers to guard their ft!” a NSF spokesperson stated. “All of NSF’s US Antarctic Program (USAP) contributors are given excessive chilly climate gear and are skilled in how you can acknowledge the hazards of utmost chilly.”

One extraordinarily chilly winter is intriguing from a document holding standpoint, however one season alone doesn’t change the long-term development, which is fast warming.


You will need to perceive climate is completely different from local weather. Climate is what occurs over shorter intervals of time (days to months), such because the seven-day forecast. Local weather is what occurs over for much longer intervals of time, similar to a number of years, and even complete generations.

“One such instance is a chilly snap, which may occur as a result of sudden adjustments in atmospheric circulation and will not be linked to local weather change,” says Tom Slater, Analysis Fellow on the Centre for Polar Commentary and Modelling on the College of Leeds. “Texas is an efficient instance of this; despite the fact that components of it skilled excessive chilly climate earlier this 12 months when air from the Arctic was pushed south, wanting on the long-term change in temperature tells us that Texas is 1.5 levels hotter on common now than it was 100 years in the past. That is local weather.”

Scientists additionally agree that for the reason that Fifties excessive chilly snaps do happen, however local weather change is bringing way more warmth information than chilly information.

“In different phrases, whereas the globe could also be hotter than common as an entire, some areas will nonetheless observe colder temperatures and even extreme chilly outbreaks,” says Zack Labe, Local weather Scientist at Colorado State College. “This regional variation is as a result of influences of the oceans, mountains, deserts, ice sheets, and different geographic options that each one have an effect on our climate and local weather. It is also from adjustments in climate patterns which might be associated to the place of the jet stream (storm monitor), which may differ from day-to-day and even month-to-month.”

So, this current winter stretch from June-August is unquestionably attention-grabbing from a analysis standpoint, but it surely does not essentially mirror what Antarctica is doing in the long run.

One nice instance of that is whereas June-August of this 12 months could have been fairly chilly, February of the earlier 12 months recorded the brand new all-time document excessive for the Antarctic continent. On February 6, 2020, the Esperanza Analysis Station recorded a excessive temperature of 18.3°C levels (64.9°F). This broke the earlier document for the Antarctic area (continental, together with mainland and surrounding islands) of 17.5°C (63.5°F) recorded in March 2015 on the similar station.

“There have been 1000’s upon 1000’s of those penguins simply in misery as a result of they have been so overheated and there was no snow,” Camille Seaman, a photographer who has traveled to Antarctica, informed CNN in August. “They have been in search of any little patch of snow or ice to put on.”


What is going on at one pole, doesn’t imply it’s taking place on the different.

Due to the intense chilly close to the South Pole, Antarctic sea ice extent has been above common the previous few months, peaking in late August when it reached the fifth highest within the satellite tv for pc document.

Nonetheless, ice close to the North Pole has executed fairly the alternative.

The summer season of 2021 was comparatively cool close to the North Pole in comparison with many current years, in response to the NSIDC, which allowed September’s ice extent to be the very best since 2014.

Nonetheless, whereas it might sound good, take into accout the final 15 years (2007 to 2021) have had the 15 lowest September ice extents on document.

Arctic sea ice extent for September averaged 4.92 million sq. kilometres, which made it the twelfth lowest in 43 years of document holding.


What is going on at Earth’s poles, doesn’t imply it’s taking place throughout the globe equally.

“Though international temperatures have risen by about 1.1 levels prior to now 150 years on common, completely different components of the globe have warmed at completely different charges as a result of pure variations within the local weather system similar to cloud cowl, land cowl and atmospheric circulation patterns,” Slater stated.

“Earth’s poles have warmed sooner than anyplace else, primarily as a result of melting ice and snow. Though Antarctica has had a chilly winter this 12 months, over the previous few many years essentially the most northerly components of Antarctica have warmed 5 instances sooner than the worldwide common — that is sooner than anyplace else within the Southern Hemisphere.”

Whereas scientists pay attention to the adjustments occurring at Earth’s poles, the larger hazard lies within the extra populated continents the place folks stay and work.

“As a local weather scientist, I’m notably alarmed at how excessive heatwaves, such because the one which impacted the Pacific Northwest this summer season, are projected to change into extra widespread sooner or later,” Labe stated. “However proper now we’ve a giant alternative. We can assist cut back the severity and frequency of future excessive heatwaves (and total local weather change) by systematically decreasing our consumption of fossil fuels.”

The impression to people and animals takes centre stage within the local weather disaster.

“Excessive warmth and humidity can pose extreme well being dangers to individuals who should endure them — on common the world now experiences an additional 14 days a 12 months with temperatures of 45 C than 40 years in the past,” Slater says. “That is why I hope we are going to see nations enhancing their commitments to tackling local weather change at COP26 in just some week’s time.”

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