UN weather agency reveals Antarctica hit record temperature of 17.5 C

An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 17.5 C, the U.N. weather agency said on Wednesday.

Esperanza base set the high on March 24, 2015

Lindblad Cove, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica, 11 January 2011 (James Balog Photography)

An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 17.5 C, the U.N. weather agency said on Wednesday.

The Esperanza base set the high on March 24, 2015, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said after reviewing data around Antarctica to set benchmarks to help track future global warming and natural variations.

"Verification of maximum and minimum temperatures help us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth's final frontiers," said Michael Sparrow, a polar expert with the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme.

Antarctica locks up 90 per cent of the world's fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60 metres if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes.

The heat record for the broader Antarctic region, defined as anywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, was 19.8 C on Jan. 30, 1982 on Signy Island in the South Atlantic, it said.

And the warmest temperature recorded on the Antarctic plateau, above 2,500 metres, was -7.0 C  on Dec. 28, 1980, it said.

Wednesday's WMO report only examined the highs. The lowest temperature set anywhere on the planet was a numbing -89.2 C at the Soviet Union's Vostok station in central Antarctica on July 21, 1983.