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‘La Nina, Reduced Sea Ice’: Key Points From Study on 2022 Antarctica Heat Wave

If another heatwave hits Antarctica and that too in the summer months, it could have catastrophic results.

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Climate Change
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Video Producer/Editor: Garima Sadhwani

Back in March 2022, Antarctica witnessed heat waves and temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius.

Two years since, on 9 January 2024, 54 scientists from across 14 countries, published their understanding of why Antarctica saw high temperatures in the American Meteorological Society journal.

The Quint decodes the study, The Extraordinary March 2022 East Antarctica “Heat” Wave, for you.

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The Seven Major Takeaways

  • In early 2022, at least 12 tropical storms had occurred and five of these became tropical cyclones under La Nina. These cyclones travelled all the way to Antarctica soaking up heat, moisture, etc.

  • This tropical air also blocked a high pressure system right below Australia, which led to the heat and moisture moving towards East Antarctica. 

  • Even as Antarctica was hit by intense heat waves, the temperatures in the interiors remained below zero. 

  • The Conger Ice Shelf, a small glacier, collapsed during the heat waves.

  • The sea ice was extensively reduced, as a result of the heat wave. 

  • Temperature anomalies will now occur more often in Antarctica

  • If another heatwave hits Antarctica and that too in the summer months, it could have catastrophic results. 

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Why This Matters

But if warnings of "catastrophic results" are not enough, there are other reasons too that make the Antarctic heat waves a huge cause of concern.

A 2023 study, titled The Largest Ever Recorded Heatwave—Characteristics and Attribution of the Antarctic Heatwave of March 2022, had suggested:

"We find that the heatwave was made 2°C warmer by climate change, and future end of century heatwaves to be 5–6°C warmer, suggesting the possibility of near-melting temperatures over the East Antarctic ice cap during extreme heatwaves."

Not just that, another 2023 study published in the Communications Earth & Environment journal flagged that emperor penguins were dying at an unprecedented rate due to global warming.

Studies over the past few years have also shown that the melting of the Antarctic ice caps will irreversibly change the way that water flows in all the oceans.

Additionally, a 2023 report in the Frontiers in Environmental Science journal showed that last year in February, Antarctica's "minimum summer ice cover" was the lowest it had ever been.

As the recent research puts it,

"Given the unprecedented (since 1958) magnitude of the records broken at Vostok, the East Antarctic heat wave of 18 March 2022 was the result of an exceptional large-scale forcing situation, or an extraordinary conjunction of situations."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Heat Wave   Climate 

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