Antarctica recorded temperatures of over 20°C for the first time in recorded history, a similar level to Abu Dhabi and Dubai at this time of year.
Brazilian scientists on Seymour Island last Sunday logged the temperature of 20.75°C. Last week, temperatures hovered below 20°C at various points in the UAE.
The new record is nearly a degree higher than the previous record of 19.8°C on Signy Island in January 1982.
It comes almost a week after another record was set in the Antarctic. An Argentine research base on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula recorded a temperature of 18.3°C on February 6, the highest recorded on the continental Antarctic peninsula.
Although both readings will need to be verified as records by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), scientists say the new temperatures point to a disturbing trend: the accelerated melting of the world’s largest repository of ice, contributing to rising sea levels.
The temperatures on the icy continent vary from -10°C on the coast to a chilling -60°C inland. But the Antarctic Peninsula (the northwest tip near to South America) is one of the fastest warming regions on the planet, with average temperatures increasing by almost 3°C over the last 50 years.
The amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017, according to the WMO.
Commenting on the new record, Carlos Schaefer, who works on a Brazilian government project that tracks the effect of climate chance in the Arctic, told The Guardian: "We are seeing the warming trend in many of the sites we are monitoring, but we have never seen anything like this."