Earth, Energy & Environment
Last month was the warmest August on record for the South Pole, ending a winter that will go down as the mildest ever since record-keeping began in 1957.
The record average temperature of minus 63.9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53.3 degrees Celsius) broke the previous record of minus 64.5F (53.6C) set in August 1996. The departure from normal was 11.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 6.4 degrees Celsius). The record average max temperature of minus 56.2F (minus 49.0C) broke the previous record of minus 57.3F (minus 49.6C), also set in August 1996.
The relatively warm month included one record warm day. On Aug. 11, the maximum temperature was minus 36.9F (38.3C), which broke the previous maximum temperature record of minus 40F (minus 40C) set in 1968.
It was also a windy month, with seven days that either broke or tied the previous peak wind speed record for those days.
In terms of the winter climatological period — the months of June, July and August — it was the warmest three-month stretch at the South Pole since records began 56 years ago, according to Phillip Marzette, senior meteorologist at the South Pole Station.
The average temperature for the the winter months in 2013 was minus 66.8F (minus 54.9C). The next warmest temperature during that same period was in 1964, with an average of minus 69F (minus 56.1C).
The wild weather began as early as March, with extreme swings between record maximum and minimum temperatures. In June, the weather really got crazy, when the all-time maximum temperature record for the month of June was set not once but twice.
On June 2, the winter-time temperature hit minus 22.2F (minus 30.1C), shattering the previous record for that day of minus 35.7F (minus 37.6C) set in 1987. The new June record barely lasted two weeks. On June 19, the temperature climbed to minus 19.8F (minus 28.8C). The record-setting day was bookended by two single day maximum temperature records as well.
June was tied for the third warmest, with an average of minus 62.9F (minus 52.7C), last recorded in June 1996. That was 10.4 degres Fahrenheit (5.8 degrees Celsius) above normal.
The weird weather has meant fewer clear days to enjoy the brilliant sky-filled nights and the ghostly auroras that paint the winter at South Pole.
“The weather has been really bad this year,” said Dana Hrubes, a scientist currently working on the South Pole Telescope who has wintered seven times at the South Pole Station since 2000. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”