This January, East Antarctica — an area that previously seemed to be spared from climate warming — experienced its first recorded heat wave.
The heat wave was recorded at the Casey Research Station between Jan. 23 and 26, marking the area’s highest temperature ever at 48.6 degrees Fahrenheit, while minimum temperatures stayed above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, according to research in Global Change Biology.
A rarity in Antarctica, heat waves are known as “three consecutive days with both extreme maximum and minimum temperatures,” according to the research.
Meanwhile, Denman Glacier — a large glacier in East Antarctica — appears to be rapidly retreating. Its position above the world’s deepest known canyon may be causing it to melt faster than it can recover, according to a letter in Geophysical Research Letters, Live Science reports.
As the glacier retreats, warm water fills the canyon, which could cause a feedback loop that returns all of the glacier’s ice to the ocean, leading to about 5 feet of global sea level rise, reports Live Science. Researchers concluded the retreating of the glacier should be a “wake-up call” to scientists who believed melting in East Antarctica to be less of a threat than that of west Antarctica.
“Although it is too early for full reports, this warm summer will have impacted Antarctic biology in numerous ways,” researchers wrote in their letter on Global Change Biology, noting disruption to ecosystem, community, and populations scales. Taylor Watson