Climate Change: Scientists record first-ever heatwave in Antarctica

Scientists are well-aware of the impact the heatwave could have on Antarctica’s ecology, both negative and positive.

Scientists have recorded the first-ever heatwave in Antarctica over the 2019-20 summer period. The researchers from the Australian Antarctic Program revealed that they had recorded temperatures as high as 9.2 degrees Celsius at Casey Station in the continent east earlier this year.

“Heatwaves are classified as three consecutive days with both extreme maximum and minimum temperatures”, said the University of Wollongong biologist Dr. Sharon Robinson.

Between 23rd January and 26th January 2020, minimum temperatures above zero degrees Celsius and a maximum temperature of 9.2 degree Celsius was noted.

‘’In the 31-year record for Casey, this maximum is 6.9 degrees Celsius higher than the mean maximum temperature for the station, while the minimum is 0.2 degrees Celsius higher”, Robinson said.

Scientists are well-aware of the impact the heatwave could have on Antarctica’s ecology – both negative and positive.

“Most life exists in small ice-free oases in Antarctica, and largely depends on melting snow and ice for their water supply”, Australian Antarctic Division applied Antarctic ecologist Dr. Dana Bergstrom said.

“Meltwater flooding can provide additional water to these desert ecosystems, leading to increased growth and reproduction of mosses, lichens, microbes, and invertebrates. However excessive flooding can dislodge plants and alter the composition of communities of invertebrates and microbial mats”, she added.

The rise in temperatures is linked to meteorological patterns that occurred in the Southern Hemisphere during spring and summer of 2019. The patterns were influenced by the breakup of the ozone hole in late 2019, which occurred due to the rapid warming in the stratosphere.

According to Australian Antarctic Division atmospheric scientist Dr. Andrew Klekociuk, combined global efforts being taken to repair and eventually close the hole in the ozone layer can help reduce regional shits in the climate system.

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