Last year, the world’s coldest region experienced the most intense heat wave ever documented, as revealed in a recent study.
According to the study titled “The Largest Ever Recorded Heatwave – Characteristics and Attribution of the Antarctic Heatwave of March 2022”, eastern Antarctica’s temperatures rose approximately 70°F (39°C) above the monthly average in March 2022.
During the peak of the heat wave, on March 18, the temperature reached -14°F (-10°C). This was exponentially higher than the average March daytime high of -56°F (-49°C) .
The heat wave easily exceeded the previous all-time March record of -24°F (-31°C). Temperatures remained above the previous all-time March record even in the middle of the night.
Unusual air circulation patterns near Australia were identified as the cause of the heat wave by researchers. In just four days, warm air from southern Australia rapidly moved into eastern Antarctica, marking a phenomenon that had never occurred at such speed before.
The heat wave coincided with record sea ice minima in February 2022. However, sea surface temperature anomalies in the Southern Ocean had little effect on the heat wave’s intensity.
According to lead author Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, climate change made the heat wave approximately 4°F (2°C) warmer. Projections suggest that climate change could worsen similar heat waves by 9°F to 11°F (5°C to 6°C) by the end of the 21st century.
In February 2023, Antarctic sea ice minima reached new record lows due to rising global temperatures. This year’s minimum was 20 percent lower than the average over the last four decades, according to Al Jazeera.
Additionally, researchers reported that emperor penguins are facing an increased mortality rate in their breeding grounds in western Antarctica, as melting sea ice results in hazardous conditions.
Similar extraordinary heat waves have been occurring in other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Earlier this year, some parts of Chile rose above 100°F (38°C) in the middle of winter.
Image Sources: Newsweek and Siddharth Singh, https://shorturl.at/bEV19