The record-breaking heat wave last week in East Antarctica, the coldest region on Earth, saw temperatures surge as much as 85 degrees Fahrenheit above average, bringing readings near freezing and unexpected surface melting instead of the usual sub-zero conditions.
The heat wave adds to a quickly growing list of previously “unthinkable” climate events, and puts an exclamation point on an Austral summer that included brutal heat waves and record-high intensity wildfires in Argentina and Chile and flooding caused by record-setting rains in eastern Australia that killed more than 20 people and left thousands homeless.
Other “unthinkable” extremes hit the Northern Hemisphere in the months before that. A December wildfire in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado completely changed how some forest and fire scientists see the fire risk in that area, and the Pacific Northwest heat wave that started in June 2021 was an extreme not forecast by climate models. As that heat wave ebbed in July, parts of several German towns were destroyed by flooding rainstorms that were intensified by global warming. And in recent days, temperatures surged to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the Siberian Arctic near the North Pole and above the adjacent Arctic Ocean. [Continue reading…]