The annual State of the Climate report has revealed that Antarctica, the world’s coldest and driest continent, experienced an unprecedented heat wave and extreme precipitation in 2022. The report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, highlights the fragility and complexity of polar regions and emphasizes the potential impact of changes in Antarctica on the rest of the world.
Antarctica holds the majority of the planet’s fresh water on its ice sheet, and any changes in the continent’s climate can have far-reaching consequences. The report warns that the loss of ice in regions such as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is contributing to rising sea levels, which in turn can affect coastal areas, agriculture, and migration patterns globally.
The researchers behind the report documented a six-day period in March 2022 when a large region of East Antarctica experienced temperatures over 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) above the historic March average. A weather station in the interior of East Antarctica recorded a temperature of 14.7 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.6 degrees Celsius), breaking previous records and highlighting the severity of the heat wave.
The heat wave was followed by an unprecedented amount of snowfall in East Antarctica, tripling the mean precipitation for March compared to previous years. This snowfall helped offset the ice loss around the margins of Antarctica and protected against sea level rise. However, the report warns that changes in atmospheric rivers, weather phenomena responsible for delivering moisture and precipitation, could lead to increased surface melt and rain in Antarctica, contributing to future sea level rise.
The State of the Climate report also discussed other significant climate events in 2022, including record greenhouse gas concentrations and rising sea levels. These findings highlight the urgent need for action to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, State of the Climate report.