Antarctica Experiences First Ever Recorded Heat Wave

There was a time when living in Antarctica seemed like a surefire way to freeze to death unless you dressed in 87 layers of clothing that you periodically set on fire to keep warm. But times, they are a-changin', and Antarctica, it is a-thawin.' Nowadays, the weather seems increasingly appropriate for shorts and beach volleyball. In February 2020, the once cryogenic continent clocked its hottest temperatures ever. It first set a record of 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit and then topped itself days later with an almost steamy-sounding 69.35 degrees, per Live Science

Those two temperatures alone feel like a watershed moment as Antarctica sheds ice like old snake skin. But the bigger picture looks even worse. On March 31, Deutsche Welle reported that scientists recorded the first known heat wave in Antarctica's history. The native plants and animals that evolved to cope with colder climes may be at risk of becoming history, too. And those aren't the only life forms that could be adversely impacted.

Not just an ice-olated problem

For the flora and fauna of Antarctica, the heat wave, which began in January, could be a long-term crisis disguised as a short-term blessing. Dana Bergstrom of the Australian Antarctic Division told Deutsche Welle, "Most life exists in small ice-free oases in Antarctica, and depends on melting snow and ice for their water supply." The melting ice might be a boon in the early going, but the influx of water could uproot plants and alter the makeup of microbial and invertebrate populations.

Unfortunately, Antarctica is the opposite of Las Vegas in that what happens there doesn't stay there but instead spreads all over the place. Oceans will be awash in that extra water, causing the global sea level to rise. And as humans gamble with their own future by contributing to rising global temperatures with reckless abandon, Antarctica will make its declining ice felt with increasing intensity. In a horrific twist on the Titanic, humanity might drown itself by sinking all the icebergs.