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Nearly 64 degrees in Antarctica? Warm 2015 temperature verified by WMO

Did you ever think you could wear shorts in Antarctica? Turns out, there was one day where you probably could have gotten away with it.

The World Meteorological Organization announced Wednesday that they have verified some of the highest temperatures recorded on the frigid continent, as part of continuing efforts to expand a database of extreme weather and climate conditions throughout the world. The readings were taken anywhere from a few years to a few decades ago, but researchers have just now spent time reviewing the readings to verify their accuracy to have a better database of conditions there.

"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," the WMO said in a press release announcing the records.

Researchers have broken the continent into three regions: The "Antarctic Region", which is all areas south of 60 degrees South latitude, the "Antarctic Continent" which is defined as the actual continent itself, and the "Antarctic Plateau" which is the parts of the continent that are higher than 2500 meters (8,202 feet.)

  • The verified record for the Antarctic region is now 67.6 degrees F, observed January 30, 1982 at Signy Research Station, Borge Bay on Signy Island.
  • The verified record for the Antarctic continent is now 63.5 degrees F, observed March 24, 2015 at the Argentine Research Base Esperanza located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • The verified record for the Antarctic plateau is now +19.4 degrees F, set December 28, 1980.

On the other hand, the coldest temperature recorded was -128.6F set July 21, 1983 at Vostok station -- that remains the current world record as well. Yes, Siberia hasn't managed to get quite that cold.

"The verification of these three Antarctic extremes helps increase understanding about the Antarctic’s distinct climatic regimes, specifically maritime versus plateau environments," the authors said.

The average annual temperature ranges from about 14°F on the Antarctic coast to -76°F at the highest parts of the interior.

The WMO says Antarctica's immense ice sheet is up to 3 miles thick and contains 90 percent of the world’s fresh water, enough to raise sea level by around 200 feet were it all to melt. Researchers say the Antarctic Peninsula is among the fastest warming regions of the planet, almost 5°F over the last 50 years. 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, the WMO said.

"This investigation highlights the need to continually monitor all of the Antarctic Region and ensure that we have the best possible data for climate change analysis at both the regional and global scales," said Randall Cerveny, WMO Rapporteur on Climate and Weather Extremes.

More information can be found at EOS.org -- the American Geophysical Union's Earth and space science news website

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