An Argentine research station in Antarctica logged an ominous new temperature record last Thursday with a reading of 18.3°C/65°C—warmer that day than Orlando, Florida, balmy enough to walk around in a t-shirt, and less than a month after a British endurance swimmer and oceans advocate swam a glacier in a Speedo bathing suit.
“The reading was from a station on Esperanza, the peninsula on the northern tip of Antarctica that’s been recording temperature data since 1961,” VICE News reports. “The last record-breaking temperature reading in Esperanza was taken only five years ago, on March 24, 2015. Then it was 17.5°C/63°F. Thursday’s reading broke that record by nearly a full degree.”
“To have a new record set that quickly is surprising, but who knows how long that will last?” said Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick. “Possibly not that long at all.”
The high temperature report landed not long after endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh, 50, “became the first person to swim in one of the supraglacial lakes of East Antarctica,” Grist reported earlier this month, as part of a campaign to create a marine protected area in the region. “In nothing but a swim cap and a Speedo, Pugh dove into water that was just above 32°F/0°C and swam for 10 minutes. As he navigated the channel, a chunk of ice cracked and sent an ominous ‘boom’ through the water.”
“I swam here today as we are in a climate emergency,” Pugh said. “We need immediate action from all nations to protect our planet.”
“Swimming UNDER the Antarctic ice sheet was the most beautiful and terrifying experience imaginable,” he later added on Twitter. Pugh detailed the swim and made the case for the marine protected area on his blog.
“Pugh’s icy swim wasn’t the only first near the South Pole this month,” Grist noted. “Across the continent, in West Antarctica, scientists deployed at the Thwaites Glacier made the first observations of a pool of warm water melting the ice from below. Scientists drilled through the ice right near the ‘grounding zone’, the boundary between the part of the glacier that’s resting on the sea floor and the part of it that extends over the open ocean, forming a shelf. They measured temperatures below the ice of more than 2°F/1.1°C above the freezing point of the seawater.”