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Record Warm Temperatures At South Pole And Mcmurdo Base

In the Dry Valleys 100km from Scott Base, the heatwave has made a mockery of the name because glacial run-off has saturated much of the area and turned paths into impassable rivers, streams and lakes.
Auckland (AFP) Jan 22, 2002
Record warm temperatures are hitting the South Pole and the Antarctic coastal bases while the intriguing Dry Valleys are turning wet, the Antarctic Sun reported Tuesday.

This despite an overall trend, as recorded by scientists, towards increasing cold in Antarctica.

The Sun, published at the US McMurdo Sound base by Raytheon Polar Services, said on December 30 that the temperature at McMurdo reached 10.5C (51F), an all-time high for the station.

The previous record was 9.4C (49F) during the mid-70s. In the first week of January the temperature reached 10C (50F).

At the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station something of a heat wave has occurred and last week the temperature reached minus 14.9C (plus 5.4F).

"The last time it was above 0F was in January 1985," John Gallagher of the South Pole meteorology department told the Sun.

"It's quite rare to be on the plus side of zero here....

"But the real warm weather has been in January," said Gallagher.

The average temperature was minus 23C (minus 8.7F) which is warmer than it ever got during the past two summers.

Experts do not know what is causing the warmth, which is creating logistical problems.

South Pole Station area manager Katy Jensen said the near-zero temperatures were associated with increased wind that leads to reduced visibility and cancelled cargo flights, said. There is also more cloud cover.

At McMurdo Base, which shares Ross Island with New Zealands Scott Base, the warmth has led to big problems with road maintenance and on the nearby Pegasus and Williams Field runways on the Ross Iceshelf. Britains Princess Ann is due to touch down there next month.

But the warmth means the runways have to be regularly covered with about a centimetre (half inch) of loose snow to prevent the surface from melting and turning to slush.

Because of the way the ice has melted in places the shuttles from the runways to the bases are taking up to 45 minutes now instead of the normal 30 minutes.

The Sun said the Dry Valleys in the Transantarctic Mountains north-west of McMurdo are becoming a mass of impassable rivers, streams and lakes.

Oddly last week the journal Nature published the results of the Long-Term Ecological Research in the Dry Valleys which found at least some parts of the icy continent were still chilling in the 1990s.

Another scientist, John Walsh of the University of Illinois said a study of weather measurements over 35 years showed 66 percent of the mainland has been cooling since 1966.

All rights reserved. 2002 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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