Whether Thermometers’ Gone Crazy in Antartica?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

At the Climate and Geological Research Center, Juan Carlos I, temperature has exceeded 12ºC a few days ago and many ‘Veteran’ polar scientists are surprised by the glacial melt on Livingston Island this year.


18 FEB 2020 – 16:30 CET

High temperatures … in Antarctica! That’s a big news, the first time with the 18ºC registered even higher than in the Argentina’s Esperanza research station. A few days later, temperature raised to 20ºC in Marambio base, both in the Antarctic Penninsula area, the big news that could turns the world around. Currently, on Livingston Island, a large group of Spanish scientists are working, and everyone is already cautious of providing this kind of information. Although they acknowledges that this camp did not have this kind of of temperatures for many years … “Look last year we had to wear thick winter clothing in these ice-covered last year. But now, the glacier has disappeared as we now see.” Mr. Ricardo Rodríguez, geologist from the University of Politécnica de Madrid, told me as he went to verified some data from the Spanish glacier project in the areas where snow has disappeared.

In fact, all the veterans of the Spanish Antarctic Base (BAE) Juan Carlos I of Livingston Island, one of the warmest areas of the continent, then on the day they came to station at the base in November, they used to have snow from the base up to the mountain top (but not for this year, there was none and it is December.) At the time, they went with the snowmobiles to the glacier (now they have to do it on foot). “And look at those two bald patches on the glacier in front of us; they weren’t as big as the last time I came in 2016”, said Mr. Jordi Felipe, who has been the head of the BAE of the CSIC for many years and now returned to his duty in the second phase of this camp.

Facing with what’s happening in front and ongoing scientific research that should be carried out these days to confirm the result that tell us if this year global warming is accelerating in Antartica. This reminding me of Jaime Fernández, from the Aemet project in Antarctic, who informed me on this matter, “It must be clear that these high temperature records are punctual, on location even though it has not been validated by the World Meteorological Organization. The occurrence of the first 18°C was caused by the phenomenon known as ‘foehn’ that happens when the warm air flows downward along the slopes of the mountain, similar to the Esperanza station which the 20°C was recorded by a biologist and it is necessary to see if they are validated. However, the occurrence of climate change must be studied in a very lengthy ongoing period and we are talking about to record only a few data in one spot.”

As we speak, by using a module in the laboratory would last very long to make a prediction. We were getting an estimate from the thermometer module at 8.2°C in the Livingston Island area, the temperature that I did not expect in Antarctica. On Sunday, February 9, Jaime confirms to me that the temperature raised up to 12ºC which was not recorded from this station. Then they quickly verified that in the 1990s there was a day with the temperature of 15ºC. But it does confirmed that the general nature of the Antarctic Summer is now leveling the temperature longer than the temperature data that scientists have recorded. In my case, just on the 9th, crossing the Sea of Sickles (or Drake’s Pass) on the oceanographic ship, Hespérides, while I was enjoying the trip on deck and in shirt sleeves a crew told me, “Although we are avoiding to travel through the Drake storm, this time the weather is unusually fine, you’re very lucky.”

In the next few hours, the base meteorologist explains that a cold front was approaching, but nothing indicates that it was dropping to negative degrees. Thus, there might be some snow, few or nothing at the moment in these polar areas. Of course, here the forecasts are announcing every day at 7:30 p.m. There was a daily meeting with all those responsible for projects so that they knew the winds, temperatures or storms that await them so they can plan their work. “It is a mandatory meeting for everyone who is joining this Aemet project,” recalled the former base chief Joan Ribá, like Felipe, from the CSIC’s Marine Technology Unit (UTM).

At nearby Bulgarian base of San Clemente de Ohrid, 10 minutes by Zodiac lifeboat from BAE on the same bay, the evidence of change can be seen visually, “Three years ago, the glacier behind were pushing out to the sea, causing us to be at risk. Now look how we are without snow and glaciers has receded”, explained Mr. Stephan, one of the mountain guides who greets us when we set sail to see foundation structure around Bulgaria, as it was colloquially known, it is the land of gray rocks and the same black volcanic ground that is commonly seen in the surrounding of Spanish research station. And there are still some structures that had been pushed to the point of being damaged by the ice, but now the ice is only a small area between the ground and the building. Recently, they thought it had a little time before it all collapsed. “This year we have no snow,” said Stephen. “It’s not as beautiful as I can remember.”

However, the ice was much closer to this station than in Spanish station because of the glacier nearby, although there were no sea. In fact, guides often come to Bulgaria to practice snowmobile, which is impossible to do at BAE, because the surface of the Johnson and Hurd glaciers, which they went with Mr. Ricardo Rodríguez in other seasons, were full of cracks. They have to walk and be very careful to not to fall into one of them.

Whether there really is climate change? “Antarctica is a very complex continent and requires long data series, but changes in the Antarctic Peninsula is hot topics. It is well known and important to know what is happening as well as the consequences that can happen in other regions where it is not so evident.”


Thanks to the news from “EL Pais” news agency in Spain, EP AVENTURA BLOGS #SomosAntártida by JOSÉ MIGUEL VIÑAS Y ROSA M. TRISTÁN

18 April 2020

Translate by Lieutenant Pitak Tiranakul, RN