The last 6 months of Antarctica are the coldest on record

“For the polar darkness period, from April to September, the average temperature is -60.9 degrees Celsius (-77.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a record for those months,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said. ).

The last six months are also the darkest season at the South Pole, where the name polar darkness (also called polar night) from. Here, the sun sets for the last time around the spring equinox, and does not rise again until near the autumn equinox six months later.
For the entire Antarctic continent, the winter of 2021 was the second coldest on record, with “temperatures for June, July, and August 3.4 degrees Celsius (6.1 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than the 1981 to 2010 average at -62.9 degrees Celsius (-81.2 degrees Fahrenheit), “according to a new report from NSIDC.

“This is the second coldest winter (June-July-August month) on record, just behind 2004 on the 60-year weather record at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station,” the NSIDC said.

“The unusual freezing has been attributed to two extended periods of stronger than average wind rotation around the continent, with the tendency to isolate the ice sheet from warmer conditions,” the NSIDC explains. “A strong upper atmospheric polar vortex was also observed, leading to a significant ozone hole. The ozone hole appears to have climbed at this post, with preliminary measurements reporting that it is in the upper quartile (top 25 percent) of ozone reduction events since 1979. “

Even in the austral summer months of November to February, it doesn’t really get “hot” at the South Pole. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which sits at an altitude of 2,835 meters (9,300 feet), has average monthly temperature in the austral summer of -28 ° C (-18 ° F).

The National Science Foundation, which runs the U.S. Antarctic program, points out winter temperatures have had little impact on science support from the South Pole, since most deep farm work occurs in the austral summer. However, polar environments are still difficult.

“Everyone adapts to the cold differently, and today’s gear makes it safer than in the days when Shackleton and the other explorers had little specialized equipment; they only had wool socks and shoes. leather to protect their feet! ” said an NSF spokesman. “All participants of NSF’s U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) are provided with extreme cold weather equipment and trained on how to recognize the dangers of extreme cold.”

An extremely cold winter is intriguing from a sustained perspective, but in just one season does not alter long-term development, which is rapid warming.

Weather vs. climate

It is important to understand the weather is different from the climate. The weather occurs in shorter periods (days to months), such as the seven day forecast. Climate occurs over a longer period of time, such as many years, or even entire generations.

“One such example is a cold flash, which can occur due to sudden changes in atmospheric circulation and may not be attributed to climate change,” said Tom Slater, Research Fellow at the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at the University of Leeds. . “Texas is a good example of this; even though parts of it experienced extreme cold weather earlier this year when winds from the Arctic pushed southward, looking at long -term temperature changes tells us that Texas is 1.5 degrees warmer on average today than it was 100 years ago. That’s the climate. “

Scientists also agree that since the 1950s severe cold snaps have been occurring, but climate change is bringing more heat notes than cold notes.

“In other words, while the world may be warmer than average overall, some areas will still observe colder temperatures and even extreme cold outbreaks,” said Zack Labe, Climate Scientist at Colorado State University. “The diversity in this region is caused by the influences of oceans, mountains, deserts, ice sheets, and other geographical features that all affect our weather and climate. It also comes from those changes in weather patterns associated with the position of the jet stream (storm track), which can vary from daily or even month-to-month. “

Thus, the recent arrival of winter from June-August is certainly interesting from a research perspective, but it does not necessarily reflect what Antarctica is doing in the long run.

A good example of this is while June-August of this year may have been very cold, February of last year recorded the new record all time high for the Antarctic continent. On February 6, 2020, the Esperanza Research Station recorded a high temperature of 18.3 ° C degrees (64.9 ° F). It broke the previous record for the Antarctic region (continental, including the mainland and surrounding islands) of 17.5 ° C (63.5 ° F) recorded in March 2015 at the same station.
“There are thousands of these penguins in distress because of the extreme heat and no snow,” Camille Seaman, a photographer who traveled to Antarctica, said. told CNN in August. “They’re looking for any little patch of snow or ice to lie on.”

Opposite of Polar

What happens to one pole, does not mean it happens to another.

Thanks to extreme cold near the South Pole, Antarctic sea ice extent has been above average in the last few months, increasing in late August when it reached the 5th highest on satellite record.

However, the ice near the North Pole has done the opposite.

The summer of 2021 will be relatively cool near the North Pole compared to many previous years, according to the NSIDC, which allowed the extent of the September ice to be highest since 2014.

However, while this may sound good, keep in mind the last 15 years (2007 to 2021) have had 15 lowest September glaciers recorded on record.

The Arctic sea ice area for September averaged 1.90 million square miles (4.92 million square miles), making it the 12th lowest in 43 years of record keeping.

Literally everywhere is heating up

What happens to the poles of the Earth, does not mean it happens equally around the world.

“Although global temperatures have risen by nearly 1.1 degrees over the past 150 years on average, different parts of the world are warming at different rates due to natural variations in climate systems such as cap of cloud, ground cover and atmospheric circulation patterns, ”Slater said.

“Earth’s poles are warming faster than anywhere else, mainly because of melting ice and snow. Although Antarctica has had a cold winter this year, the past few decades have been the most northern parts of Antarctica are warming five times faster than the global average – that’s faster than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. “

As scientists have recorded the changes taking place in the Earth’s poles, the greater risk lies in the more populated continents where people live and work.

“As a climate scientist, I am particularly alarmed at how intense heatwaves, such as the one that affected the Pacific Northwest this summer, are expected to become more common in the future,” Labe said. “But right now we have a big opportunity. We can help reduce the severity and frequency of extreme heatwaves (and overall climate change) by systematically reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.”

The impact on humans and animals is taking a major stage in the climate crisis.

“Extreme heat and humidity can pose a severe health risk to people who have to tolerate them – on average the world now experiences more than 14 days a year with temperatures of 45 C than 40 years ago. ago, ”Slater said. “That’s why I hope we’ll see countries improve on their commitment to tackling climate change at COP26 in just a few weeks.”


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