Climate change is already ravaging the Antarctic Peninsula, which the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) described as one of the fastest warming regions on Earth. In a recent statement, the organization announced the area has witnessed record high temperatures. The Argentine Research Base Esperanza, which rests on the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip, hit 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24, 2015.
WMO identified three subregions in Antarctica, and listed the high temperature record for each. The Antarctic Region, or all the land under the 60th parallel south, saw a balmy temperature of 67.6 degrees Fahrenheit back in January 1982. It’s the Antarctic continent, or “the main continental landmass and adjoining islands” as defined by WMO that saw the recent hot temperature of 63.5 degrees. The Antarctic Plateau, which is land higher than 8,202 feet, saw a record temperature of 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit in December 1980.
WMO said the average annual temperature is around 14 degrees Fahrenheit along the coast of Antarctica, and negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit at the interior’s highest regions. But parts of Antarctica have already heated up nearly three degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in just the past 50 years. According to the organization, “Some 87 percent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years.”
Around 90 percent of the planet’s fresh water is in Antarctica, frozen as ice. Should all that ice melt, sea levels would spike by around 200 feet, so even extremes around the edges of the region concern scientists.
The recently released data highlights the dire need for continued climate change research. Polar expert Michael Sparrow, of the World Climate Research Program co-sponsored by WMO, said in the statement, “The Antarctic and the Arctic are poorly covered in terms of weather observations and forecasts, even though both play an important role in driving climate and ocean patterns and in sea level rise. 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.”