New temperature extremes for Antarctica

A Victoria University of Wellington scientist is part of an international group of experts who have identified the highest temperatures ever recorded in Antarctica.

Professor James Renwick from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences is part of a World Meteorological Organisation Commission for Climatology (CCl) expert committee, which monitors weather and climate extremes around the globe.

The committee today announced new records for the highest temperatures recorded in the Antarctic Region, as part of continuing efforts to expand a database of extreme weather and climate conditions.

The highest temperature for the Antarctica Region (all land and ice south of 60 degrees south) of 19.8°C was observed on 30 January 1982 on Signy Island.  

The highest temperature for the Antarctic continent (the main continental landmass and adjoining islands) is 17.5°C, recorded on 24 March 2015 near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.  

The highest temperature for the Antarctic Plateau (at or above 2,500 metres) was the observation of -7°C made on 28 December 1989 at an Automatic Weather Station site inland of the Adélie Coast.  

The lowest temperature yet recorded by ground measurements for the Antarctic Region, and for the whole world, was -89.2°C at Vostok station on 21 July 1983.

Professor Renwick says the verification of these Antarctic extremes helps increase understanding about the Antarctic’s climate.

“Knowledge and verification of such extremes is important in the study of weather patterns, naturally occurring climate variability and human-induced climate change at global and regional scales. All research on how the climate is changing is built upon high-quality records of weather and climate observations.

“These newly defined records give the international community a benchmark for comparison with future observations in a changing climate.”

The CCl committee consisted of polar science and climate experts from Argentina, Spain, Morocco, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Full details of the assessment can be found in the online issue of Eos: Earth and Space Science News of the American Geophysical Union.

A study recently published in Nature by Dr Nick Golledge of Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre revealed just how sensitive the Earth’s climate might be to changes taking place in Antarctica. The Antarctic Research Centre is an internationally-recognised research institute, working to better understand Antarctic climate history and processes and their influence on the global climate system.