Bharat Express

Environmentalists Confuse By Antarctica’s Unusual Heatwave

The natural occurrence led to the final collapse of the vulnerable Conger Ice Shelf


Environmentalists dislike surprises. It indicates we don’t have a thorough understanding of how the climate operates. Unfortunately, as climate change intensifies, more unexpected and unforeseen disasters occur.

In March 2022, Antarctica faced an unprecedented heatwave. Temperatures across large parts of East Antarctica rose by up to 40°C (72°F), surpassing previous records. It was the most extreme heatwave ever recorded anywhere in the world.

The occurrence was so stunning and rare that it stunned the Antarctic climate science community. A comprehensive global study initiative was initiated to determine the cause and extent of the harm.

A team of 54 researchers investigated the complexities of the phenomena. The team was directed by Swiss climatologist Jonathan Wille and comprised scientists from 14 countries. The partnership resulted in two important studies, which were published today.

The findings are frightening. However, they provide scientists with a better knowledge of the links between the tropics and Antarctica, as well as an opportunity for the global community to prepare for the consequences of a warming planet.

The papers detail a convoluted scenario that began half a world away from Antarctica. During La Niña, tropical heat from Indonesia reached the Indian Ocean. Simultaneously, periodic weather troughs pulsating eastward were forming from southern Africa. These conditions converged to create a late Indian Ocean tropical cyclone.

Between late February and late March 2022, 12 tropical storms developed. Five storms intensified into tropical cyclones, and heat and moisture from some of them combined. A meandering jet stream gathered up this air and quickly moved it across the earth to Antarctica.

This jet stream also helped to prevent a high-pressure system from passing eastward beneath Australia. When tropical air collided with the so-called ‘blocking high’, it created the most violent atmospheric river ever recorded over East Antarctica. This sent tropical heat and moisture southward into the centre of the Antarctic continent.

The natural occurrence led to the final collapse of the vulnerable Conger Ice Shelf. Nonetheless, the consequences were less severe than they could have been. That’s because the heatwave hit in March, the month when Antarctica enters its dark, severely cold winter. If a future heatwave strikes in the summer, as is increasingly expected due to climate change, the consequences could be disastrous.

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