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Antarctica’s extreme cold spells defy global trends

Antarctica’s extreme cold spells defy global trends

Extreme Cold

Antarctica experienced unusual extreme cold events in 2023, despite it being a year of record-breaking global temperatures. A study published in the scientific journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences highlights the intense cold spells that occurred on the continent during July and August. Researchers documented record cold temperatures across a broad region of Antarctica.

“Record cold temperatures were observed in our Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) network as well as other locations around the region,” said Matthew A. Lazzara of the Antarctic Meteorological Research and Data Center. Kunlun Station recorded its lowest temperature ever observed at -79.4°C, significantly lower than the monthly average.

Extreme cold impacts Antarctic research

Meanwhile, South America saw record-breaking high temperatures, including nearly 40°C (104°F) in Chile and a 117-year-old heat record in Rio de Janeiro. The study identified four distinct cold phases from mid-July to the end of August 2023.

An analysis revealed strong negative anomalies in August 2023, indicating that the mid-tropospheric atmospheric environment played a crucial role in the observed extreme cold temperatures. Southerly flows from the continent and calm atmospheric conditions contributed to these cold spells. These extreme conditions severely disrupted essential flight operations to key research stations due to the risk of hydraulic failure and fuel gelling in aircraft.

Understanding these conditions helps in better preparation for future challenges in Antarctic logistics. The international team of scientists underscores the importance of understanding the atmospheric environments that lead to extreme cold temperatures for improving the safety and efficiency of Antarctic operations.

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