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The World Meteorological Organization announced Wednesday that Antarctica hit a new record high recorded temperature of 63.5 degrees F.
The record, set at an Argentine research base in 2015 and just confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, breezes past the previous record of 59 degrees.
Meanwhile, real time data released from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showed only 2.131 million square kilometers of sea ice surrounding the continent on Feb. 28—about 159,000 square kilometers less than the record low set in 1997. The Antarctic ice sheet contains 90 percent of the world's freshwater, which would raise sea levels by 200 feet if it were to melt.
For a deeper dive:
Sea ice: Washington Post
Commentary: Forbes, Marshall Shepherd column
By Jeremy Deaton
Also this week, Scott Pruitt took the helm at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt, who has deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, has described climate science as a "religious belief" and said he expects to scrap the Clean Power Plan, an EPA initiative to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
Scientists have found that carbon pollution is warming the planet, producing more severe weather, including more extreme heat. February's spate of record-high temperatures offers the most recent example of how this process plays out.
In Pruitt's home state of Oklahoma, temperatures hit a record 99ºF earlier this month, more than 40 degrees above the average February high. Texas, Kansas and Colorado also recorded all-time highs. Over the long weekend, Chicago endured four consecutive days of record heat, which coincided with record-setting temperatures in Madison, Milwaukee and other Midwestern cities.
This first three weeks of February have been a meteorological anomaly. But the weather seen this month is quickly becoming the new normal in the U.S. Carbon pollution is trapping heat, driving up temperatures around the country. That means fewer cold days and more warm days.
Global warming is shifting the entire distribution of temperatures, making extreme cold less likely and extreme heat more likely.Environmental Protection Agency
Record hot days—those at the far end of the temperature distribution—bear the strongest human fingerprint. This, in other words, is what climate change looks like.
As the planet warms, we will endure more extreme heat and less extreme cold. February has delivered record temperatures to countries as far afield as Iceland and Australia. So far this month, the U.S. has seen 2,805 record highs and just 27 record lows.
This change in weather patterns does not come without a cost.
For those living in frigid Midwestern states, a balmy day in February is a welcome respite from the typical winter chill. But the early thaw—what scientists call "season creep"—can have disastrous consequences for ecosystems.
Flowers are already beginning to emerge in Chicago, which has gone a record 67 days without an inch of snow. Early blossoms may wilt before they can be pollinated. Farmers in the region may see their crops bud after an early thaw only to perish in a late-season frost.
Because climate change poses an immediate threat to public health, agriculture and wildlife, states and cities aren't waiting for Pruitt's EPA to take action. Massachusetts legislators are now considering a bill that would require the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2035. California has pledged to get to 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2045.
"Mr. Pruitt is a clear and present danger to our economic prosperity and the health of our children," California Senate leader Kevin de Léon (D) said in a statement. "California will not follow Trump's destructive path. We've proven that you can protect the environment and grow jobs."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Temperature anomaly across North America for Feb. 19 as seen through the GFS computer model. Photo credit: Weatherbell Analytics
Multiple cities—from Washington, DC to Toronto to Milwaukee—smashed temperature records this week, as a record February warm spell continues to spread across the U.S.
Nearly 3,000 daily maximum temperature records were set during the first half of the month. During the past week, 736 record highs were set with no record lows recorded. Thursday, Falcon Dam, Texas recorded a (yet unverified) temperature of 107 F—the highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. in February.
The unusually early spring weather is triggering a new type of guilt among the climate conscious: Both the Chicago Tribune and the Atlantic highlighted this week the bizarre mental calculus of enjoying warm weather that's a clear sign of a changing climate.
For a deeper dive:
Background: Climate Signals
Global temperatures in July were 0.84 C (1.51 F) above the 1950-1980 average, making it the hottest month since record keeping began, as well as the hottest July ever.
The latest National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data shows that July is now the tenth consecutive record warm month and 2016 is still on track to be the hottest year on record.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, expects July to be the last record warm month of 2016 as the effects of El Niño fade.
According to the U.K.-based Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS), which last week published similar temperature results:
Global temperature usually peaks in July, when the land masses of the northern hemisphere are on average at their warmest. It varies by more than 3° C over the course of each year. The largest recent deviation from this annual cycle occurred in February this year, but July was still more than 0.5° C warmer than the 1981-2010 average for the month. This made July 2016 the warmest month of any in a data record that can be extended back to the nineteenth century.
For a deeper dive:
June has continued the unprecedented heat streak for the 14th month, with globally averaged temperatures being a full 1.62 F (0.9 C) warmer than the average across the 20th century, according to the latest data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and confirmed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The effects of last year's El Niño, which contributed to spike in temperatures, is fading but the record heat streak over the Earth has remained. According to NOAA, the first half of 2016 was 0.36 F (0.2 C) warmer than last year and this year is on track to becoming the third consecutive year to set a new global heat record.
This image was taken aboard a NASA research flight over the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic on July 16.NASA
Another indication of warming is Greenland's melting ice. A satellite study has also shown that Greenland has lost a shocking 1 trillion tons of ice in just four years between 2011 and 2014. Ice loss from Greenland, which has been 9 trillion tons in the past century, may have contributed to a full inch of sea-level rise in the last 100 years.
For a deeper dive:
A massive heat wave struck Alaska this week, with the town of Deadhorse witnessing a high of 85 F. This has been the warmest ever in Deadhorse, where average temperatures tend to be 57 F at this time of the year. The temperatures were in the 80s across the region.
The highest ever temperature record in Alaska was in 1915 when it reached 100 F in Fort Yukon on June 27. This year Alaska has witnessed a freakishly warm first six months with the state's temperature averaging 30.4 F, 9 F higher than normal. As a result, the state's fire season had an early start this year and more wildfires are feared due to the heat wave.
June was the warmest on record since 1895 in the U.S., with a monthly average temperature of 71.8 F in Lower 48 states, 3.3 F above normal.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have also been eight weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each in the first half of the year—a combination of severe storms and massive flooding.
In the Arctic, sea ice extent plunged 100,000 sq. miles below the previous record low set in June 2010, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) showed. The sea ice extent was 525,000 sq. miles below the 1981-2010 long-term average. From mid-June onwards, ice cover reduced 70 percent faster than typical rate of ice loss, at an average rate of 29,000 sq. miles a day.