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'Not a good sign': The temperature was 70 degrees above average near South Pole, a troubling record

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/19/2022 Maria Jimenez Moya, USA TODAY
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A heat wave is hitting near the North and South Poles. 

It was 70 degrees warmer than average in a part of Antarctica, the land area around the South Pole, while areas of the Arctic are more than 50 degrees warmer than normal, scientists say.

Officials at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, have been watching the Arctic, which has been warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe. It had been experiencing temperatures unusual for mid-March, as it is nearing or at the melting point, according to the center's senior research scientist Walt Meier.

FILE - A drop of water falls off an iceberg melting in the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord near Nuuk in southwestern Greenland, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Earth’s poles are undergoing simultaneous freakish extreme heat with parts of Antarctica more than 70 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) warmer than average and areas of the Arctic more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) warmer than average. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) ORG XMIT: NYSB524 © David Goldman, AP FILE - A drop of water falls off an iceberg melting in the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord near Nuuk in southwestern Greenland, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Earth’s poles are undergoing simultaneous freakish extreme heat with parts of Antarctica more than 70 degrees (40 degrees Celsius) warmer than average and areas of the Arctic more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) warmer than average. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) ORG XMIT: NYSB524

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Then near the South Pole, Antarctica weather stations recorded record-setting highs this week. Temperatures hit 10 degrees (-12.2 degrees Celsius) Friday – 70 degrees above normal – at the Concordia station, which is two miles above sea level.

That same day temperatures hit 0 degrees at the even-higher Vostok station, beating the all-time record by about 27 degrees, according to a tweet from Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist and extreme weather record tracker.

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“They are opposite seasons. You don’t see the North and the South (poles) both melting at the same time,” Meier told The Associated Press Friday evening. “It’s definitely an unusual occurrence.”

The Vostok temperature marks the March record since data has began to be collected 65 years ago, Stefano Di Battista, a researcher who has published Antarctic climate studies, told The Washington Post, which first reported the warm Antarctic temperatures. 

“In about 65 record years in Vostok, between March and October, values ​​above -30°C (-86 degrees Fahrenheit) were never observed,” he told the Post.

On Friday, the Arctic as a whole was 6 degrees warmer than was normal from 1979-2000, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer, based on U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather models. The Antarctic continent was about 8.6 degrees warmer, it found. By comparison, the world as a whole was only 1.1 degrees (0.6 degrees Celsius) above the 1979 to 2000 average.

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Meier and University of Wisconsin meteorologist Matthew Lazzara say the Antarctica heat wave is a rare occurrence rather than a significant sign of climate change. What likely happened was “a big atmospheric river” pumped in warm and moist air from the Pacific southward, Meier said.

However, if this persists, then it would be something to worry about. “Not a good sign when you see that sort of thing happen,” Lazzara told the Associated Press.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Not a good sign': The temperature was 70 degrees above average near South Pole, a troubling record

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