A new record high temperature for Antarctica was set on March 24, 2015, and just recently confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization. The new record high was set at an Argentine research base (Experanza) near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, where temperatures climbed as high as 63.5° Fahrenheit (17.5° Celsius) on the day in question.
Notably, this figure doesn’t represent a record high for the Antarctic region, just a record high at the location in question and the Antarctic continent. The highest temperature ever recorded in the Antarctic region was 67.6° Fahrenheit (19.8° Celsius), as observed on January 30, 1982, on Signy Island (in the South Atlantic).
While the new record doesn’t mean much on its own, it’s yet another sign that big changes are likely to occur in Antarctica over the coming century (and afterwards as well).
The record was confirmed as part of a data review that’s intended to establish benchmarks that can be used to monitor changes in the region.
“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,” commented Michael Sparrow, a researcher with the World Meteorological Organization co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme.
Reuters provides a bit more: “Antarctica locks up 90% of the world’s fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60 meters (200 ft) if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes. … And the warmest temperature recorded on the Antarctic plateau, above 2,500 meters (8,202 feet), was -7.0°C (19.4°F) on December 28, 1980, it said. Wednesday’s WMO report only examined the highs. The lowest temperature set anywhere on the planet was a numbing -89.2°C (-128.6°F) at the Soviet Union’s Vostok station in central Antarctica on July 21, 1983.”
Given the location, temperature records for Antarctica are of course much more limited in scope than those from highly populated areas. The work by the World Meteorological Organization referenced above should help to provide a means of interpreting new temperature data in the region though.