It’s not typical for the temperatures in Antarctica to be nearly the same as those in Southern California, but that is what happened in the first week of February. That week, the weather in the Antarctic Peninsula reached a preliminary record-breaking 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit. That was practically identical to what was felt the same afternoon in San Diego, California.
The temperature was recorded at Argentina’s Esperanza research station, on the very northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The new record was 1.4 degrees hotter than its previous hottest recorded temperature. The continent’s last record was 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24, 2015. Temperature records from Esperanza date back to 1961.
The World Meteorological Organization is in the process of confirming that the temperature is the highest to date. Experts still need to verify the record, which will require a panel of atmospheric science experts from around the world discussing the station’s data. The verification process could take as long as nine months.
The new record temperature does fit with a broader pattern of warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. The continent has been found to be one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, with the average temperature there increasing by more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit in five decades. That is about five times the global average. This is a problem because warmer weather in Antarctica contributes to warmer seawater in general, which then leads to further warming.
Randall Cerveny, the World Meteorological Organization’s rapporteur of weather and climate extremes, said in an interview, “This is unfortunately a continuing trend. This station just set the existing record only just a few years ago in 2015. So we are seeing these high temperature records, not only in Antarctica, but across the entire world, fall, whereas we just don’t see cold temperature records anymore.”
Antarctica has increasingly lost ice over the years due to the warmer temperatures, contributing to rising sea levels worldwide. The melting Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica has the potential to raise global sea levels more than 10 feet by itself. In all, Antarctica’s ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea levels by nearly 200 feet.