The hottest-ever temperature recorded in Antarctica has been confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
A temperature of 18.3°C (64.94°F) was recorded on February 6, 2020, at Esperanza Station, an all-year-round Argentine research station in Hope Bay, on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Make no mistake, this record-smashing temperature is another grim reflection of the deepening climate crisis that's slowly engulfing the world.
“The Antarctic Peninsula (the northwest tip near to South America) is among the fastest-warming regions of the planet, almost 3°C over the last 50 years. This new temperature record is therefore consistent with the climate change we are observing,” Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, said in a statement.
"This new record shows once again that climate change requires urgent measures. It is essential to continue strengthening the observing, forecasting, and early warning systems to respond to the extreme events that take place more and more often due to global warming,” added Professor Celeste Saulo, Director of Argentina's National Meteorological Service and First Vice President of WMO.
Temperatures recordings in Antarctica are put through a rigorous review process to ensure they're accurate, which is why the WMO is only just confirming this record from early last year. According to their observations, this record temperature seen in February 2020 was the result of a large high-pressure system that created downslope winds producing significant local surface warming at both Esperanza Station and Seymour Island.
As part of this new announcement, the WMO also rejected an even higher temperature recording of 20.75°C (69.35°F), which was previously reported on February 9, 2020, on Seymour Island. It said this unusually high temperature was skewed by an “improvised radiation shield” that led to a thermal bias error for the temperature sensor.
The previous official record for the Antarctic region was 17.5°C (63.5°F) recorded on March 24, 2015, also at the Esperanza Research Station. The record for the Antarctic region — which includes all ice/land south of 60 degrees latitude — is 19.8°C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.
On the other side of the planet at the North Pole, things are arguably even worse. Land surface temperatures — which, for clarity, are different to air temperature recordings — of up to 48°C (118°F) were detected in June 2021 around Verkhoyansk, a Siberian town in the Arctic Circle. Most scientists agree the Arctic area as a whole is heating up faster than any other place on the planet as a result of human-driven climate change. The impact of this colossal change is set to be felt much further than the chilly confines of the Arctic and will likely have a knock-on effect through the planet, from rising sea levels to intensifying extreme weather events.