‘Unthinkable’: Scientists Shocked as Polar Temperatures Soar 50 to 90 Degrees Above Normal

Jerri-Lynn here. I meant to link to news about the polar temperature surge yesterday, but was momentarily distracted and completely forgot. Mea culpa. This Common Dreams post discusses the shock and alarm scientists are expressing at the unprecedented temperature surges recorded this weekend at each of the earth’s poles – the latest manifestation of climate change. Coming less than a year after last summer’s record-busting temperatures recorded in the Pacific Northwest. the latest polar temperature surges should unsettle all but the most hardened climate change skeptics. Alas, the mess in Ukraine and the unresolved pandemic is distracting world leaders from addressing the climate change emergency.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

Scientists expressed shock and alarm this weekend amid extreme high temperatures near both of the Earth’s poles—the latest signs of the accelerating planetary climate emergency.

Temperatures in parts of Antarctica were 50°F-90°F above normal in recent days, while earlier this week the mercury soared to over 50°F higher than average—close to the freezing mark—in areas of the Arctic.

Stefano Di Battista, an Antarctic climatologist, tweeted that such record-shattering heat near the South Pole was “unthinkable” and “impossible.”

“Antarctic climatology has been rewritten,” di Battista wrote.

The joint French-Italian Concordia research station in eastern Antarctica recorded an all-time high of 10°F on Friday. In contrast, high temperatures at the station this time in March average below -50°F.

Jonathan Wille, a researcher studying polar meteorology at Université Grenoble Alpes in France, told The Washington Post that “this event is completely unprecedented and upended our expectations about the Antarctic climate system.”

“This is when temperatures should be rapidly falling since the summer solstice in December,” Wille tweeted. “This is a Pacific Northwest 2021 heatwave kind of event,” he added, referring to the record-breaking event in which parts of Canada topped 120°F for the first time in recorded history. “Never supposed to happen.”

Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, told USA Today that “you don’t see the North and the South [poles] both melting at the same time” because “they are opposite seasons.”

“It’s definitely an unusual occurrence,” he added.

As Common Dreams has reported, the Arctic has been warming three times faster than the world as a whole, accelerating polar ice melt, ocean warming, and other manifestations of the climate emergency.

“Looking back over the last few decades, we can clearly see a trend in warming, particularly in the ‘cold season’ in the Arctic,” Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute, told the Post. “It’s not surprising that warm air is busting through into the Arctic this year. In general, we expect to see more and more of these events in the future.”

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  1. Steve H.

    > Alas, the mess in Ukraine and the unresolved pandemic is distracting world leaders from addressing the climate change emergency.

    There’s an assumption in the phrase ‘world leaders’ which is misleading. Only the administration of the UN are world leaders, and they haven’t been effective beyond words.

    There are effective national leaders, however. If you think climate change is inevitable, and if you have coastline within the arctic circle, you may conclude that you’d best adapt and it could bring relative benefit. You have to believe it’s survivable. In the Eocene, the equatorial regions became uninhabitable deserts, and life migrated to polar regions, adapting to only a half-year of light. Massive dieoff, but survivable, and ‘relative benefit’ beats ‘existential catastrophe’ anyday.

    ‘Addressing climate change’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘stopping climate change’.

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        Thanks, Steve. I didn’t know this existed.

        I think it’s really helpful to put the data into people’s hands.

        How did you come across this? Are you a scientist?

        I’m trying to do my part, too. I’m building a greenhouse that runs year-round, while using very little fossil fuel.

        1. Steve H.

          Hi, Tom, I’ve got a Masters in Environmental Science, but it’s an old one. The level of data available now is astonishing.

          But a great question is “So what?” My answer is, I’m building a greenhouse that runs year-round, while using very little fossil fuel. So I’m right there with you.

          1. Tom Pfotzer

            Steve: hopefully you’ll circle back, and see this reply.

            Relevance of low-fossil-input greenhouse is that it’s one key tool / capacity that can be used in a “designed to fit into nature as it is” household design.

            If you posit that “the design of our modern economy is what’s trashing the planet”, then it’s time to design new economic systems that fix the planet.

            A greenhouse collects an enormous amount of energy, and then loses it right away. It doesn’t have to lose it. A greenhouse can provide really good food for the household, and have something to sell to trade for what the household doesn’t make. Two key hh inputs (food and energy) from one wholly-owned, easy-to-operate hh-level economic function.

            My greenhouse is a lab; a place to design operational processes which use free inputs (water, sun, air), few external inputs (some minerals) to produce a long-term resource stream that can displace key, high-volume, bad-for-planet inputs (like food and energy, and the associated transport loads).

            Much more to say, but I think that helps get this point across: we know what the problem is, and we’re motivated to solve it. “Solving it” requires the development of “fit” alternatives.

            Top-down isn’t going to deliver those alternatives. I think we can all see that. So, if alts are to be had, they’re going to have to come bottom-up.

            Gh is one very useful component of a viable bottom-up strategy, IMHO.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Some high techno-science-skilled hippies tried something like this in Berkeley called The Integral Urban House. They learned some things and demonstrated some things and wrote a book.

              There is someone else living on Martha’s Vineyard, I think, who has designed another live-in approach to energy-capturing and use-facilitating greenhouses and integrated house-greenhouses who has an ongoing project and has written several books.

              Between these approaches and the German-invented Passivhaus concept
              and possibly “Earthship”, and maybe Max’s Pot in Austin, Texas and legacy information from the New Alchemy Institute which existed for a while on Cape Cod, it may already be possible to do a lot of live-in house-greenhouse design for energy retention/beneficial use. It may even be possible to do a lot of suburban house retrofitting to apply some of these concepts.


              Max’s Pot

              New Alchemy Institute Cape Cod

            2. drumlin woodchuckles

              Here is an old Mother Earth News article about Bill Yanda’s attached-to-house greenhouse design and application.

              Bill Yanda also wrote a book about strictly solar greenhouses whose title I can’t remember just now.

              Also, Elliott Coleman has written books much more recently about building and running hoophouses for growing cool-tolerant crops through winter. Some of what he writes may be relevant to attached-to-house greenhouse concepts.

    1. BeliTsari

      Distracting? Ukraine IS fracked methane unleashing the clathrate Kraken! It’s a YOOJ part of US foreign policy: shut down Rooski GAS export (especially Nord Stream II) bail- out Albright’s fracking pyramid scheme and simultaneously drive up gasoline, hide monopoly-based inflation; as chronically PASC uppity essentials & death o’ disparity deplorables, indentured into 1099 gig-serfdom abandon MASKLESS-transit for 25yr old diesel trucks. It’s as though DNC™ LLC’s TRYING to murder the proletariat NOW (not just our kids, a couple decades into the Fury Road meets On The Beach future?




    2. chukjones

      It’s the rate of change that is unprecedented. Life was able to migrate to the poles as they warmed over thousands of years. We don’t have that time apparently.

      1. Rolf

        This is a critical point, and often disregarded. Earth history is replete with examples of cyclicity, with cycle periods on the order of 10K to 100K years (external/orbital forcing), to hothouse-icehouse transitions (internal/tectonic forcing) with periods on the order of 100 Ma, all of which has occurred against a very long term background of secular change (appearance of life, oxygenation of the atmosphere, emergence of shelled taxa, arrival of vascular plants, etc.). The point is that even glacial-interglacial transitions require thousands of years: geologically rapid, yes, but not really discernible over human lifespans. But the changes we have forced through fossil fuel consumption is a step function: geologically instantaneous. And as you point out: it’s not the magnitude of the change, but the time over which that change has occurred, that is unprecedented.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Rolf – that’s the key point. Change velocity > max rate of adaptation.

          I’ve found that this does a great job of removing the fig leaf behind which many blame-shifters / deniers reside.

          This phenomenon of change exceeding adaptation rate pertains on a lot of other dimensions as well. It’s one key reason we’re all so freaked out.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Between ocean rise and Siberian lowland permafrost meltaway/subsidence, Russia will lose more square miles of land than the RussiaGov currently understands.

  2. polar donkey

    Last flight out of South Pole station at the end of summer season 20 years ago was around February 20th. Temperatures were getting close to -40 on average. Didn’t want to risk storms delaying a final LC130 flight for a few days and then temperature dropping to -50. Anything below -50, the hydraulics become a problem on the plane. Didn’t want an LC130 stuck at South Pole till November. If it is this warm in Antarctica now, you could do flights till sunset, which is today.

  3. Jeremy Grimm

    Strange — no mention of possible impacts on the projections for the rate and height of ocean rise.

    1. BeliTsari

      Back ~1964, when they’d still teach us kids clathrate gun hypothesis predictions, we’d been comforted by, “no matter how crazy white-flight suburban churls get, this is not likely to happen in your lifetime?” I’d link to this, but he’s 95 & I don’t want to embarrass a sweet guy over his not forseeing TWO Republican Parties, Katrina trashing Mars TLP, our first Black president SELLING Enron’s planet destroying “bridge fuels,” Schlumberger’s SCARY predictions being ignored or Biden, Kerry’s kids needing work?



  4. Kouros

    I do have a problem with the fact that NASA scientists are still working in Fahrenheit degrees and not Celsius. Didn’t they crash a probe on Mars for forgetting to convert to imperial into metric some years ago?

    I have no problem having two messages, one for the US and one international. People outside the US will just shrug their shoulders looking how in fact the Arctic and Antarctic are literally boiling, when that cannot possibly be true…

  5. Fastball

    “They created the mess in Ukraine and refused to address the pandemic so they could make money AND wouldn’t have to address the climate emergency (or health care, or income inequality, yadda yadda yadda)”

  6. Reaville

    This is not a complaint, but an observation: these developments and associated reports suck the energy out of me.

    The nonlinearity of the climate (meaning bigger changes getting even bigger faster) is clear now. Big news. Spaceship earth has a deteriorating environmental system. It’s an existential threat. Really.

    Response: collective ducking of heads and…Ukraine! Woke! Democracy! China!

    Pogo was right.

    I’ve moved from Northern California, where the water news is amazingly bad and moving to “terrifying” to Puget Sound where it rains (like right now). My carbon footprint is tiny (solar, electric cars (my 2012 Leaf getting a second battery to give it.a range of 125 miles for the next 10 years and maybe longer). I fix everything because throwing stuff away is an emotional event. I recycle. But I’m starting not to care because the scale of “bad emissions” is enormous relative to “renewable/sustainable technology” and change happens meaningfully only if it achieves scale.

    GOP has made it a mission to prevent the replacement of fossil fuel. Dems are not serious. Tory party in UK has prevented “green crap” (as former PM Cameron called it) from scaling up. Oz is a coal miner’s dream. Canada still wants to be a petro state. The Anglo-sphere is using words like “realistic” and “energy independence” to enact social suicide.

    Guess I’m just not realistic.

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    ” the latest polar temperature surges should unsettle all but the most hardened climate change skeptics. ”

    They “should”, but they won’t. I am fully confident that tens of millions of Proud Foxanons and other Militant Backwardite Stupidites will not be affected the least bit at all.

    Us should just go ahead and try forcing energy conservation policies and approaches into existence in whatever jurisdictions that Us have commanding control over. Us should also live as energy-conservingly as Us can. Maybe someday Us can become so powerful that we can take over the government and more importantly the culture and force conservation down Them’s throat.

    ” Can’t we all just get along?” —Rodney King

    “We”, Rodney? Us. Or us not. There is no “we”.

  8. orlbucfan

    (Family Blog), this news makes me mad, frustrated and mad!! I knew about the climate threats over 50 years ago as a teenager, studied what I could do to lessen my carbon footprint, and did it! Recycling, composting, renovating a small house to make it energy efficient, buying ICE autos with very, very high mileage per gallon plus manual transmissions–yes, they do affect the mpg. I never got into buying a bunch of junk and the “keeping up with the Joneses” nonsense. I never ate much beef nor pork. I may not be a typical American, but I didn’t and don’t care! Still, I read this stuff and put my head in my hands in near despair. At least now, I’m getting old. This is the front page news, but you can bet your sweet behind it won’t be here in the idiotic USA!

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      If I could, I’d reach right across the internet and pin a big (family-blog)-ing medal on your chest.

      Good on you for being smart, adaptable, wise, and courageous enough to do what needed to get done.

      We constructive-types need to stick together. We’re out-numbered, but still mighty!

      Same goes for you, DW.

  9. Skunk

    At about 40:00 in the NOVA program linked below, you can see diagrams of very large fossil methane reservoirs under the permafrost. These are deposits of methane that have not been factored into current climate models. Imaging has shown that in the Arctic, a significant number of chimneys have been created that move the fossil methane through the miles of permafrost to the surface. In other words, the permafrost serves as a plug that lies over these fossil methane deposits. The permafrost does not necessarily need to melt on a significant scale for the chimneys to develop and draw the fossil methane up through the permafrost to the surface. Again, the impact of released fossil methane deposits has not been factored in to the current climate models.

    Arctic Sinkholes I Full Episode I NOVA I PBS

    This is different from the clathrate gun hypothesis, since any fossil methane deposits under the methane clathrate deposits could be drawn to the surface before the clathrates themselves melt. Yes, I know the video information deals with land deposits and the clathrate gun hypothesis deals with methane clathrates in the ocean, but presumably fossil methane deposits could exist under frozen areas whether on land or in the sea.

  10. LawnDart

    “Darwin’s dice have rolled badly for Earth . . . The human species is, in a word, an environmental abnormality. Perhaps a law of evolution is that intelligence usually extinguishes itself.”
    E.O. Wilson
    NYT October 30, 1993

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      E.O.Wilson confused Western Civilization in particular with the human species in general, a mistake that many Western Civilizationists make.

      The Amazon Indian nations who up-terraformed the Amazon Basin were “human species” , after all.

      1. Eclair

        Thanks for your astute observation, mr woodchuckles. I love your name, btw, because the southern tier of NY is filled with drumlins … and we host a resident woodchuck … a very obese woodchuck … whose lair is within a few feet of our veggie garden :-)

        If only humans had learned from the Indigenous peoples of the continents and stayed living in harmony with the world, rather than trying to be masters of it. I sometimes stand on the side of Route 99 in Seattle, waiting for the light to change, watching the parade of vehicles, each 2 tons of metals, plastic and rubber steered by a single human: vacuous beetles encased by an enormous carapace. And think that all those materials, as well as the fuels propelling them, were wrested from the Earth with no thought of how they will be replaced.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Thank you for the kind words. The Western Chauvinism runs deep in the language used by Western Civilization Man. For example, many of us ( and many others not, to be sure) are descended from the very people the Greeks and then the Romans sneered at as “barbarians”. So now we have the spectacle of several hundred million Westernised and Greco-Romanized descendants of the Free Peoples of Europe sneering at their own ancestors as “barbarians”.

          The indigenous peoples of the continents were humans and still are to this very day. They showed ( and to the slight extent permitted by WesterModern Dominance) still show that humans did learn these things. So perhaps enough WesterModern humans can learn these things from indigenous human knowledge to render WesterModern Civilization eco-viable and long-term survival-ready.

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