South Pole’s Cold Season Was Coldest on Record

By Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester is an environmental reporter at The Epoch Times.
October 19, 2021 Updated: October 19, 2021

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called July 2021 Earth’s hottest July in 142 years of recordkeeping, recent temperatures on Antarctica, the planet’s coldest continent, have been frostier than ever. In fact, the 2021 polar darkness period from April through September was the coldest on record near the South Pole.

Dr. David Bromwich of Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center told The Epoch Times that the record is based on direct temperature readings at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

“The satellite measurements started in the late 1970s so this is not a source that can be consulted,” he wrote in an email.

“We haven’t consulted any other stations.”

The temperatures dipped to a record-breaking average of almost minus 78 degrees Fahrenheit between April and September, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

On Oct. 9, CNN released a story headlined, “Antarctica’s last 6 months were the coldest on record.”

This headline, which overstated the geographic scope of the record cold, may have been based on an earlier version of NSIDC’s statement, which claimed that temperatures “on the Antarctic continent” were among the coldest on record this Antarctic winter (June, July, and August) and the coldest on record for April through September.

The NSIDC released clarification on that point on Oct. 13, changing “on the Antarctic continent” to “for the interior of the Antarctic continent, specifically the region near the South Pole.”

“The unusual cold was attributed to two extended periods of stronger-than-average encircling winds around the continent, which tend to isolate the ice sheet from warmer conditions,” the NSIDC statement reads. “A strong upper-atmosphere polar vortex was observed as well, leading to a significant ozone hole.”

The extremely cold winter comes just a year and a half after one Antarctic research station, Argentina’s year-round Esperanza Base on the continent’s northernmost peninsula, hit a new high temperature record for the continent: 18.3 degrees Celsius, or almost 65 degrees Fahrenheit, on Feb. 6, 2020.

That record was formally recognized by the World Meteorological Association (WMO) in July 2021.

Other commentators have highlighted a broader cooling trend on the Antarctic continent, including its peninsula, in recent decades.

At WattsUpWithThat, Pierre L. Gosselin drew attention to several recent scientific papers that mentioned or analyzed a cooling trend in that region since the 1990s, which followed a sharp warming trend earlier in the 20th century.

One of the papers Gosselin mentioned, published in Nature in 2017, tracked the growth of multiple lichen species, finding that their growth declined or their numbers collapsed during recent, cooler Antarctic summers.

Scientists interviewed in the media about the record cold at the South Pole emphasized that it didn’t negate or disprove the effects of global warming, including in Antarctica.

“One cold winter is interesting, but doesn’t change the long-term trend, which is warming,” Eric Steig, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, told The Washington Post.

“While the globe may be warmer than average as a whole, some areas will still observe colder temperatures and even severe cold outbreaks,” Zachary Labe, a climate scientist at Colorado State University, told CNN.

By contrast, scientists didn’t hesitate to link the record warmth at Esperanza Base in 2020 to climate change.

“It’s a sign of the warming that has been happening there that’s much faster than the global average,” James Renwick, a climate scientist at Victoria University of Wellington, told The Guardian Australia in 2020.

“This is a record from only a single station, but it is in the context of what’s happening elsewhere and is more evidence that as the planet warms, we get more warm records and fewer cold records,” Steve Rintoul, of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, told The Guardian as part of that same article.

On social media, users cited the record cold near the South Pole as reason for skepticism about the way climate change, or global warming, has been popularly presented.

“Err….is this why ‘global warming’ has been rebadged as ‘climate change’? Thinking face South Pole froze over in coldest winter on record” wrote one anonymous user on Twitter.

Nathan Worcester is an environmental reporter at The Epoch Times.