The World Meteorological Organization considers a heatwave to be a period of at least five days, in which the daily maximum temperature at least 5 °C (9 °F) higher than the average maximum temperature. Some nations have different variations of this definition.
The coldest continent used to be ice-free. 14 million years ago, it became covered with a mile (1.6 kilometers) thick ice. Unable to dig as deep as to get to the underlayers, scientists have long wondered how did ice gets to rule Antarctica, and weather balance for that matter. The answer: the changes in Earth’s orbit.
Recently, East Antarctica has experienced something close to a heatwave. From the 23rd till the 26th of January, the daily maximum temperature fluctuated. On the 24th, it was 7 degrees Celsius higher than average. It also reached its highest minimum, following morning. Although it doesn’t fit the profile to be a heatwave, the phenomenon can do just as much damage by causing ice melting and floods.
Global Warming Caused A Massive Heatwave To Hit Antarctica
“Meltwater flooding can provide additional water to these desert ecosystems, leading to increased growth and reproduction of mosses, lichens, microbes, and invertebrates. Excessive flooding can dislodge plants, and alter the composition of communities of invertebrates and microbial mats,” warns Dana Bergstrom, Principal scientist from the Australian Antarctic Division.
The scientists worry that the heating started too early and too aggressively, showing signs of a fierce summer that might create severe and lasting disruptions. This event comes after the one on February 9th, when Northern Antarctica recorded the highest temperature in the continent: 20.75 °C (69.3 °F).
The severity of heatwaves is expected to increase due to the anthropogenic activities that cause increasing greenhouse gas emissions related to global warming. Although we might not be able to consider plants, invertebrates, and microbes important life-forms, then maybe we can relate to those depending on them to survive: penguins, blue whales, orcas, colossal squids, or fur seals.