Antarctica, one of the coldest places globally, has been enduring an increased amount of abnormal summer warming during recent years. The white continent registered exceptionally high temperatures this month as well, sending shock waves across the scientific community.
According to the observational data, some parts of Antarctica reported freakish heatwaves with temperatures shooting to 30°C above normal. On March 18, the average temperatures soared to nearly 5°C instead of the usual double-digit negative temperatures.
In an unprecedented event, the coastal Zucchelli Station on Terra Nova Bay of Antarctica recorded 7°C earlier this month. The highest surge was recorded at Concordia Research Station, based at an altitude of over 10,000 feet above sea level, which reported temperatures of -11.5°C, which is a whopping 40℃ above March average at the station that has been operational for over 66 years.
Though the temperatures may still feel relatively less compared to other parts of the world, it is alarming with respect to the Antarctic standards. The icy continent usually records temperatures at -45 or -51°C during this time of the year. At present, scientists have not attributed the spike in temperatures to climate change. However, a mix of multiple meteorological factors could have led to this bizarre heatwave episode.
As per reports, the heatwave was triggered by an atmospheric river, a stream of water vapour that stayed over the continent for a longer duration. A high-pressure system formed over the southeast of Australia led to the arrival of warm air and high moisture content into the interior parts of Antarctica. Simultaneously, a low-pressure system also formed over the East Antarctic interior.
Altogether, these meteorological factors led to the formation of a heat dome, which stopped the moisture from escaping Antarctica, adding to the weather woes of the South Polar Region. Since this unusual spike in temperatures happened in the southern hemisphere’s autumn season, it has not resulted in abnormally high melting of glaciers and ice caps in Antarctica. But the high temperatures did trigger some melting in the interior of the region in small quantities.
Another pole of the planet, the Arctic, also witnessed severe heat exposure in March 2022. It also followed a similar weather pattern as an intense low-pressure system over the northeast US coast and an adjacent high-pressure system led to the arrival of atmospheric rivers over the region.
This unprecedented heat event could be a major threat to the Arctic, which is warming nearly three times faster than the global average. And even Antarctica could witness a similar spate in the future.
Source – weather.com