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Antarctica 2020 Hottest Ever

Posted on: February 8, 2020







THIS POST IS A CRITICAL REVIEW OF A FEB 7 2020 CNBC REPORT ON ANTARCICA : “Antarctica registers hottest temperature ever at nearly 65 degrees Fahrenheit” [LINK]



  1. “Antarctica just set its hottest temperature ever recorded at 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit as climate change continues to accelerate across the world. The reading beats the continent’s previous record of 63.5 degrees tallied in March 2015 and comes shortly after the Earth saw its hottest January on record and hottest decade on record in the 2010s. The reading was taken at the Esperanza Base along Antarctica’s Trinity Peninsula on Thursday”.
  2. “Scientists say that they see no end to the way climate change continues to shatter temperature records across the world, including in Antarctica, which is one of the fastest-warming regions in the world. Research shows that Antarctica’s glaciers are rapidly melting as the planet warms, releasing enough water to significantly raise global sea levels. The amount of ice lost each year from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least sixfold between 1979 and 2017, according to the WMO. Roughly 87% of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated over the last half-century, with most showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years. The peninsula is expected to see additional extreme warmth in the upcoming days”.



The message appears to be that Antarctica has been hit hard by AGW climate change and that is causing the icy continent to melt and raise sea levels. Here we provide some details about Antarctica that are inconsistent with this assessment. Firstly, it is noted that the high temperature of 65F (18.3C) was measured not as the mean surface temperature for the continent of Antarctica but at the Esperanza Base located in a tiny corner of the continent. In the map of Antarctica at the top of this post, Esperanza Base is located in the uppermost and leftmost corner at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This specific location cannot be considered to be representative of Antarctica as a whole in any way whatsoever particularly so because this region is geologically active. Isolated heat events of this kind are also known to be created in the Antarctic Peninsula region by the effects Foehn and Chinook winds known to occur in this region [LINK] [LINK]

In terms of mean surface temperature for the continent we present below two GIF animation charts in Figure 1 that compare the lower troposphere temperatures 1979-2019 above Antarctica (on the left) with with those above the Arctic (on the right). These temperatures represent the mean temperature across the two regions rather than an arbitrary location such as the Esperanza Base at the tip of the geologically active Antarctic Peninsula. The GIF animations cycle through the twelve calendar months showing one calendar month at a time. It is noted in these charts that the warming trends vary a great deal among the calendar months and that the warming is much stronger in the Arctic than on Antarctica.

This comparison is made clearer in Figure 2 where the OLS linear regression trends and the R-squared value for those trends are tabulated and averaged for the twelve calendar months. The annual averages for all twelve calendar  months show a high warming rate and a high R-squared value for the Arctic indicating strong statistically significant warming in that region. However, no significant warming is seen in Antarctica where the annual average values show very low annual average warming rate and also very low annual average R-squared value.

The mean annual warming rate in the Arctic is found to be 7.5 times the mean annual warming rate in Antarctica; and the statistical significance of the warming rate, as measured by R-Squared, is found to be 10.4 times higher in the Arctic than in Antarctica. These results indicate very little if any evidence of AGW climate change in Antarctica and demonstrate a generally accepted climate state of Antarctica in which AGW global warming is not a significant factor that should guide the interpretation of temperature and ice melt in Antarctica. It is also noted that temperature data from weather stations in Antarctica are available from the British Antarctic Survey 1957-2008. The Antarctic Peninsula stations (eg. Faraday and Esperanza) do show a warming trend in these data but the eastern and central weather stations (eg. Amundsen-Scott, Halley, Mirny, and Dumont) show either no temperature trend at all or a slight cooling trend [LINK] .









In a related post on this site [LINK]  is shown an almost comical history of desperate but failed attempts to describe temperature and ice melt events in Antarctica as dramatic and alarming impacts of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) and climate change. The reason for the failure of this line of reasoning in climate science is found in another related post [LINK]  where the relevant geological features of Antarctica are described and shown to provide a more rational explanation of the localized and isolated but dramatic temperature and ice melt events that have been and continue to be arbitrarily attributed to AGW climate change. It is noteworthy that these attributions are made not only by the media but also by the climate scientists themselves although many published papers in this area point out the anomalies in this assumed attribution, as seen in the bibliography provided at the end of this post. For example, in Ludescher (2016) the author points out gross anomalies in the attribution of Antarctic temperatures trends to AGW climate change; and in Hansen (2005), the venerable father of the modern form of fear based climate alarmism struggles to find a way to relate Antarctica ice melt events to AGW climate change but acknowledges the difficulties in that interpretation. On the other side we see papers like Hanna (1996) and Vaughan(2003), where researchers identify the difficulties in the attribution of Antarctica temperatures and ice melt to AGW climate change but struggle to find a way to make that attribution anyway; while Overland 2008 provides a similar comparison of the Arctic with Antarctica described above in this post.

With respect to the specific issue of the temperature measurement at Esperanza Base in January of 2020 of 65 Fahrenheit that is claimed to be evidence of the impact of AGW climate change on Antarctica, we describe here some details of the geology and prior geological history of this specific region of Antarctica. The image in Figure 3 below shows a NASA graph that reflects ice melt data for the entire continent from 2003-2008. It shows that Antarctica as a whole gained ice at the rate of 82 gigatonnes/year (GTY). However, East Antarctica, which composes 80% of the continent, gained 136 GTY. This means that West Antarctica, 20% of the continent, lost 54 GTY. Of that 29 GTY of the melt, more than half, occurred in the Antarctic Peninsula where Esperanza Base is located. It is not possible for a uniform atmospheric cause such as AGW climate change to create such vastly different localized ice melt events.



As described in greater detail in a related post [LINK] , West Antarctica, particularly so the Antarctic Peninsula, is geologically very active with extensive regions of extreme volcanic activity that provide more convincing  explanations of isolated high temperature and ice melt events than the “slippery slope” of the AGW explanation as described by James Hansen (Hansen 2005). Some of these geological features are displayed in Figure 4 where the region marked with black hatched lines is the 700 miles wide by 4,000 miles long West Antarctic Rift (WAR). A rift is a region where the lithosphere is being pulled apart by plate tectonics. The lithosphere is the solid outermost layer of the upper mantle (along with the crust). These are regions of extreme geological activity and geothermal heat such that the WAR, home to about 200 land and submarine volcanoes, has created a hotspot that is 620,000 square miles in area. If  we zoom into the South Shetland Island portion of the rift, we find ourselves in the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula where Esperanza Base is located (Figure 5). This region includes the geological hot-spot of the Deception Island Collapse Caldera, a huge volcanic eruption so violent that the middle of the volcano collapses into a hollow region such that geologically heated warm water can create a giant hot tub where tourists to Antarctica can explore in swimsuits as seen in Figure 6.


CONCLUSION: We conclude from the above analysis, the data presented, and the relevant bibliography shown below, that an extreme temperature event of 18C observed at a single point in time in a specific location on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, a region known to be highly geologically active, does not serve as evidence of AGW climate change or its impacts on Antarctica. Arbitrary attributions of this kind to AGW are likely driven by activism needs and confirmation bias [LINK] . They have no interpretation in terms of AGW climate change and they do not conform to the requirements of objective scientific inquiry. An added consideration in the interpretation of isolated and short term temperature events is that the Antarctic Peninsula is known to experience Foehn and Chinook winds that can create exactly the kind of temperature event described. 



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  1. Hanna, Edward. “The role of Antarctic sea ice in global climate change.” Progress in physical geography 20.4 (1996): 371-401.  Taking a distinct interdisciplinary focus, a critical view is presented of the current state of research concerning Antarctic sea-ice / atmosphere / ocean interaction and its effect on climate on the interannual timescale, with particular regard to anthropogenic global warming. Sea-ice formation, morphology, thickness, extent, seasonality and distribution are introduced as vital factors in climatic feedbacks. Sea-ice / atmosphere interaction is next discussed, emphasizing its meteorological and topographical influences and the effects of and on polar cyclonic activity. This leads on to the central theme of sea ice in global climate change, which contains critiques of sea-ice climatic feedbacks, current findings on the representation of these feedbacks in global climatic models, and to what extent they are corroborated by observational evidence. Sea-ice / ocean interaction is particularly important. This is discussed with special reference to polynyas and leads, and the use of suitably coupled sea-ice / ocean models. A brief review of several possible climatic forcing factors is presented, which most highly rates a postulated ENSO-Antarctic sea-ice link. Sea-ice / atmosphere / ocean models need to be validated by adequate observations, both from satellites and ground based. In particular, models developed in the Arctic, where the observational network allows more reasonable validation, can be applied to the Antarctic in suitably modified form so as to account for unique features of the Antarctic cryosphere. Benefits in climatic modelling will be gained by treating Antarctic sea ice as a fully coupled component of global climate.
  2. Vaughan, David G., et al. “Recent rapid regional climate warming on the Antarctic Peninsula.” Climatic change 60.3 (2003): 243-274.  The IPCC) confirmed that mean global warming was 0.6 ± 0.2 °C during the 20th century and cited anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases as the likely cause of temperature rise in the last 50 years. But this mean value conceals the substantial complexity of observed climate change, which is seasonally- and diurnally-biased, decadally-variable and geographically patchy. In particular, over the last 50 years three high-latitude areas have undergone recent rapid regional (RRR) warming, which was substantially more rapid than the global mean. However, each RRR warming occupies a different climatic regime and may have an entirely different underlying cause. We discuss the significance of RRR warming in one area, the Antarctic Peninsula. Here warming was much more rapid than in the rest of Antarctica where it was not significantly different to the global mean. We highlight climate proxies that appear to show that RRR warming on the Antarctic Peninsula is unprecedented over the last two millennia, and so unlikely to be a natural mode of variability. So while the station records do not indicate a ubiquitous polar amplification of global warming, the RRR warming on the Antarctic Peninsula might be a regional amplification of such warming. This, however, remains unproven since we cannot yet be sure what mechanism leads to such an amplification. We discuss several possible candidate mechanisms: changing oceanographic or changing atmospheric circulation, or a regional air-sea-ice feedback amplifying greenhouse warming. We can show that atmospheric warming and reduction in sea-ice duration coincide in a small area on the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, but here we cannot yet distinguish cause and effect. Thus for the present we cannot determine which process is the probable cause of RRR warming on the Antarctic Peninsula and until the mechanism initiating and sustaining the RRR warming is understood, and is convincingly reproduced in climate models, we lack a sound basis for predicting climate change in this region over the coming century.
  3. Hansen, James E. “A slippery slope: How much global warming constitutes “dangerous anthropogenic interference”?.” Climatic Change 68.3 (2005): 269-279. In a recent article (Hansen, 2004) I included a photograph taken by Roger Braithwaite with a rushing stream pouring into a hole in the Greenland ice sheet. The photo relates to my contention that disintegration of ice sheets is a wet, potentially rapid, process, and consequent sea level rise sets a low limit on the global warming that can be tolerated without risking dangerous anthropogenic interference with climate. I asked glaciologist Jay Zwally if I would be crucified for a caption such as: “On a slippery slope to Hell, a stream of snowmelt cascades down a moulin on the Greenland ice sheet. The moulin, a near-vertical shaft worn in the ice by surface water, carries water to the base of the ice sheet. There the water is a lubricating fluid that speeds motion and disintegration of the ice sheet. Ice sheet growth is a mslow dry process, inherently limited by the snowfall rate, but disintegration is a wet process, spurred by positive feedbacks, and once well underway it can be explosively rapid.” Zwally replied “Well, you have been crucified before, and March is the right time of year for that, but I would delete ‘to Hell’ and ‘explosively”’. I thought immediately of the fellow who went over Niagara Falls without a barrel. Would not he consider that a joy ride, compared to slipping on the banks of the rushing melt-water stream, clawing desperately in the freezing water before being hurtled down the moulin more than a kilometer, and eventually being crushed by the giant grinding glacier? “A slippery slope to Hell” did not seem like an exaggeration. On the other hand, I was using “slippery slope” mainly as a metaphor for the danger posed by global warming. So I changed “Hell” to “disaster.” What about “explosively”? Consider the situation during past ice sheet disintegrations. In melt-water pulse 1A, about 14,000 years ago, sea level rose about 20 m in approximately 400 years (Kienast et al., 2003). That is an average of 1 m of sea level rise every 20 years. The nature of glacier disintegration required for delivery of that much water from the ice sheets to the ocean would be spectacular (5 cm of sea level, the mean annual change, is about 15,000 cubic kilometers of water). “Explosively” would be an apt description, if future ice sheet disintegration were to occur at a substantial fraction of the melt-water pulse 1A rate. Are we on a slippery slope now? Can human-made global warming cause ice sheet melting measured in meters of sea level rise, not centimeters, and can this occur in centuries, not millennia? Can the very inertia of the ice sheets, which protects us from rapid sea level change now, become our bete noire?
  4. Overland, James, et al. “The Arctic and Antarctic: Two faces of climate change.” Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union 89.19 (2008): 177-178.  Although both the Arctic and Antarctic are subject to a similar annual cycle of solar radiation and the same increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, over the previous two decades the two regions have experienced dramatically different changes in sea ice extent, temperature, and other climatic indicators. While these differing responses suggest a paradox, they are largely consistent with known climate dynamics. This conclusion was drawn by scientists participating in the Second Workshop on Recent High Latitude Climate Change, in Seattle, Wash., in October 2007, against the dramatic backdrop of major Arctic sea ice reductions 1 month earlier [World Climate Research Programme, 2007].
  5. Aronson, Richard B. etal. “Anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems in Antarctica.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1223.1 (2011): 82-107. Antarctica is the most isolated continent on Earth, but it has not escaped the negative impacts of human activity. The unique marine ecosystems of Antarctica and their endemic faunas are affected on local and regional scales by overharvesting, pollution, and the introduction of alien species. Global climate change is also having deleterious impacts: rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification already threaten benthic and pelagic food webs. The Antarctic Treaty System can address local‐ to regional‐scale impacts, but it does not have purview over the global problems that impinge on Antarctica, such as emissions of greenhouse gases. Failure to address human impacts simultaneously at all scales will lead to the degradation of Antarctic marine ecosystems and the homogenization of their composition, structure, and processes with marine ecosystems elsewhere.
  6. Agee, Ernest, Andrea Orton, and John Rogers. “CO2 snow deposition in Antarctica to curtail anthropogenic global warming.” Journal of applied meteorology and climatology 52.2 (2013): 281-288.  A scientific plan is presented that proposes the construction of carbon dioxide (CO2) deposition plants in the Antarctic for removing CO2 gas from Earth’s atmosphere. The Antarctic continent offers the best environment on Earth for CO2 deposition at 1 bar of pressure and temperatures closest to that required for terrestrial air CO2 “snow” deposition—133 K. This plan consists of several components, including 1) air chemistry and CO2 snow deposition, 2) the deposition plant and a closed-loop liquid nitrogen refrigeration cycle, 3) the mass storage landfill, 4) power plant requirements, 5) prevention of dry ice sublimation, and 6) disposal (or use) of thermal waste. Calculations demonstrate that this project is worthy of consideration, whereby 446 deposition plants supported by sixteen 1200-MW wind farms can remove 1 billion tons (1012 kg) of carbon (1 GtC) annually (a reduction of 0.5 ppmv), which can be stored in an equivalent “landfill” volume of 2 km × 2 km × 160 m (insulated to prevent dry ice sublimation). The individual deposition plant, with a 100 m × 100 m × 100 m refrigeration chamber, would produce approximately 0.4 m of CO2 snow per day. The solid CO2 would be excavated into a 380 m × 380 m × 10 m insulated landfill, which would allow 1 yr of storage amounting to 2.24 × 10−3 GtC. Demonstrated success of a prototype system in the Antarctic would be followed by a complete installation of all 446 plants for CO2 snow deposition and storage (amounting to 1 billion tons annually), with wind farms positioned in favorable coastal regions with katabatic wind currents.
  7. Ludescher, Josef, et al. “Long-term persistence enhances uncertainty about anthropogenic warming of Antarctica.” Climate dynamics 46.1-2 (2016): 263-271.  Previous estimates of the strength and the uncertainty of the observed Antarctic temperature trends assumed that the natural annual temperature fluctuations can be represented by an auto-regressive process of first order [AR(1)]. Here we find that this hypothesis is inadequate. We consider the longest observational temperature records in Antarctica and show that their variability is better represented by a long-term persistent process that has a propensity of large and enduring natural excursions from the mean. As a consequence, the statistical significance of the recent (presumably anthropogenic) Antarctic warming trend is lower than hitherto reported, while the uncertainty about its magnitude is enhanced. Indeed, all records except for one (Faraday/Vernadsky) fail to show a significant trend. When increasing the signal-to-noise ratio by considering appropriate averages of the local temperature series, we find that the warming trend is still not significant in East Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula. In West Antarctica, however, the significance of the trend is above 97.4%97.4%, and its magnitude is between 0.08 and 0.96 °C per decade. We argue that the persistent temperature fluctuations not only have a larger impact on regional warming uncertainties than previously thought but also may provide a potential mechanism for understanding the transient weakening (“hiatus”) of the regional and global temperature trends.
  8. Previdi, Michael, and Lorenzo M. Polvani. “Anthropogenic impact on Antarctic surface mass balance, currently masked by natural variability, to emerge by mid-century.” Environmental Research Letters 11.9 (2016): 094001Global and regional climate models robustly simulate increases in Antarctic surface mass balance (SMB) during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in response to anthropogenic global warming. Despite these robust model projections, however, observations indicate that there has been no significant change in Antarctic SMB in recent decades. We show that this apparent discrepancy between models and observations can be explained by the fact that the anthropogenic climate change signal during the second half of the twentieth century is small compared to the noise associated with natural climate variability. Using an ensemble of 35 global coupled climate models to separate signal and noise, we find that the forced SMB increase due to global warming in recent decades is unlikely to be detectable as a result of large natural SMB variability. However, our analysis reveals that the anthropogenic impact on Antarctic SMB is very likely to emerge from natural variability by the middle of the current century, thus mitigating future increases in global sea level.

8 Responses to "Antarctica 2020 Hottest Ever"

[…] As described in a related post [LINK] , there was indeed a very high temperature recorded at the Esperanza Base near the tip of the […]

[…] a bonus, a particularly nerdish and  critical appraisal of the recent report that the Antarctic is about to burst into flames due to unprecedented […]

Great job keeping the public updated about what’s happening in Antarctica.

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