A dangerous recording

Esperanza Station

Esperanza Station

When it was revealed this week that an Argentine research base in the Antarctic clocked temperatures of 17.4°C back on March 23rd, 2015, scientists around the world became increasingly worried. If you are willing to filter out all of the climate change deniers, you will begin to hear true warnings that we are setting ourselves up for disaster. We wrote recently that humans are causing climate change to accelerate at 170 times its normal rate, and this is just another indicator.

The 35-year temperature high is attributed to warm air advection and warming from leeward winds, known as Foehn warming.

Talking about the equipment that caught this phenomenon, EOS said:

“Temperature observations for Esperanza Station (63°24′S, 56°59′W, elevation of 13 meters) began in January of 1953 and have continued since. The instrumentation consists of a common (mercury-in-glass) maximum/minimum thermometer that was installed on 3 December 2005 located within a pagoda-style naturally vented meteorological shelter.”

Why is it dangerous?

Earth plate history diagramMore than 90% of the world’s freshwater is locked up in ice, snow and glaciers in Antarctica. Were this to melt, global sea levels would rise around 60m, causing unknown devastation. Of course, if it were to happen, it would take many tens, hundreds or thousands of years. We can see from visual representations of Earth’s history that the continents have moved and changed, but never before has it been a creature killing the planet, as opposed to the other way round.

Interesting temperature facts

  • Warmest Antarctic temperature, 19.8°C, Jan 30th, 1982
  • Coldest Antarctic temperature, -89°C, July 21st, 1983
  • Hottest recorded temperature globally, 56.7°C, July 13th, 1913, Death Valley, California, USA
  • Hottest ground temperature recorded, 93.8°C, July 15th, 1972, Furnace Creek, California, USA
  • Temperature on the Sun, approximately 15,000,000°C
  • Temperature on the Moon vary from -183°C at night to 106°C in the day

Ice Caps melting doesn’t happen overnight

In fact, they start by slowly breaking up into smaller pieces, as is happening at the ‘Larsen C Ice Shelf’ in Antarctica right now. A rift expanded by 18km recently, and now totals 80km, with just 20km still attached before it snaps completely.

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift from an aerial view

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift from an aerial view

Ice shelves are large areas of floating ice attached at the end of glaciers. When they snap, they are able to float freely towards warmer climates and ultimately melt. This is part of the slow process of rising sea levels that will take place if we do not protect the environment.

How did they find out?

They are measuring Antarctic temperature and weather at the Esperanza base. This is situated at the very northern tip of the ‘Antarctic region’, an area described as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.

The Esperanza base and several other outposts around the Antarctic peninsula track various things, one of which is the weather fluctuations. They review this data to gain information about global warming, both natural and man-made. The WMO, the World Meteorological Organisation, has the responsibility of officially investigating, measuring, documenting and verifying these temperature changes. The extreme fluctuation described at the beginning of this report was surprisingly 100 kilometres south-east from Esperanza (Spanish for Hope), at Marambio, another Argentine research base.

Michael Sparrow, a polar expert on the World Climate Research Programme said: “Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers.”