Antarctica hits record high temperature at balmy 17.5 deg C

A frozen section of the Ross Sea at the Scott Base in Antarctica on Nov 12, 2016.
A frozen section of the Ross Sea at the Scott Base in Antarctica on Nov 12, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

OSLO (REUTERS) - An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 17.5 deg C, the United Nations weather agency said on Wednesday (March 1).

The Experanza base set the high on March 24, 2015, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said after reviewing data around Antarctica to set benchmarks to help track future global warming and natural variations.

"Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth's final frontiers," said Michael Sparrow, a polar expert with the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme.

Antarctica locks up 90 per cent of the world's fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60m if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes.

The heat record for the broader Antarctic region, defined as anywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, was 19.8 deg C on Jan 30, 1982, on Signy Island in the South Atlantic, it said.

And the warmest temperature recorded on the Antarctic plateau, above 2,500m, was minus 7 deg C on Dec 28, 1980, it said.

Wednesday's WMO report only examined the highs.

The lowest temperature set anywhere on the planet was a numbing minus 89.2 deg C at the Soviet Union's Vostok station in central Antarctica on July 21, 1983.