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At 1pm on 9 February 2020, Brazilian scientists from Marambio base on Seymour Island in the Weddell Sea recorded an air temperature of 20.75C. The reading still needs to be properly confirmed by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), but if it is, it will break the previous record of 19.8C which was recorded on Signy Island back in 1982.

Meanwhile, Argentinian scientists based at Esperanza on the continental Antarctic peninsula recorded a reading of 18.3C on 6 February - the highest reading ever for this location.  Seymour and neighbouring islands have seen average temperatures rise by 3C since pre-Industrial times.

Brazilian scientist Carlos Schaefer said that the reading was not part of a long-term data set, so it was important not to read too much into it as an indicator of regional climate change.  However, it was still significant as a signal that something different was happening.

Temperatures in eastern and central Antarctica have remained fairly stable, but there have been considerable shifts in temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula, the James Ross Archipelago (of which Seymour Island is part of) and the South Shetland Islands.  Here, there was cooling in the first decade of the 2000s, but since then, the area has warmed rapidly.

Around 87% of glaciers in western Antarctica have 'retreated' in the last 50 years.  Antarctica stores around 70% of the world's fresh water in its ice.  If it were all to melt, global sea levels would rise by 50 to 60 metres, but that would take hundreds of years.   The UN's worst case estimates currently suggest a sea level rise of about 110cm by 2100.

Photo: Esperanza base, Antarctic Peninsula.

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