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Antarctic cold: the South Pole has just experienced its coldest winter in its history

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Extreme heat waves and increasing ice melting phenomena have become regular concerns due to global warming. In recent months, however, the reverse results have been equally surprising at the South Pole.

(Photo: Reuters Connect)

A colder south pole


The South Pole was not as immediately exposed to the impacts of global warming as its flashier cousin, the North Pole, which has become famous for its legendary vacation residents. So, while climatologists are worried about rising temperatures and melting ice floes, the South Pole has been largely spared from the consequences observed at the North Pole, which has experienced a significant melting of glaciers and has even been enveloped in smoke from forest fires this summer.

However, temperatures in the immense Antarctic ice tundra at the South Pole have dropped to levels not seen before this winter.

From April to September, the mainland’s winter months, average temperatures at the Amundsen-Scott station at the South Pole, located on the continent’s highest plateau, dropped to 78 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (61 degrees in below zero Celsius).

Related article: NASA Uncovers Mystery Of Endangered Lakes Hidden Under Antarctic Ice Cap

How cold can the South Pole get?

Sea ice is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region

(Photo: Getty Images)

It wasn’t even the coldest temperature in that range. So it was standard cold.

According to statistics collected by the British Antarctic Survey, the harsh temperatures of winter 2021 were the lowest in more than 60 years. Since 1957, the study team, which is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, has been collecting temperature data at the South Pole and has never seen such a cold winter.

On September 30, the lowest recorded minimum temperature at Russian station Vostok was an astounding 110.9 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (79.4 degrees below zero Celsius). The temperature reading was 122 degrees below zero Fahrenheit at the time.

The Washington Post reported that the terrible season was caused by a continuous polar vortex that circled Antarctica throughout the winter.

AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jason Nicholls said the strong polar vortex could be linked to weak La Nia conditions that reappeared later in the southern hemisphere winter.

According to Nicholls, the vortex was strongest in July and August. Although it weakened slightly in September, it remained relatively robust overall.

“The polar stratospheric winds were stronger than usual, which caused the jet stream to shift towards the pole,” Amy Butler, NOAA scientist, told the Washington Post. “Cold air is trapped over most of Antarctica because of this.”

Read between the lines

Antarctic

(Photo: Getty Images)

As scientist Zack Labe pointed out on Twitter, the contrast between rising temperatures across the rest of the world and new depths of intense cold in Antarctica is stark.

However, experts warn that people should proceed with caution when interpreting Antarctic winter temperatures. Analysis of global weather patterns should not be based on a single season of extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold.

Professor Eric Steig of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington told the Washington Post: “A cold winter is intriguing, but it doesn’t affect the long-term trend, which is warming.

Also read: NASA Reports Earth Trapped ‘Unprecedented’ Amount of Heat in Energy Imbalance

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