WMO Evaluation of Two Extreme High Temperatures Occurring in February 2020 for the Antarctic Peninsula Region

Márcio Rocha Francelino Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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Carlos Schaefer Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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Maria de Los Milagros Skansi Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Steve Colwell British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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David H. Bromwich Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

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Phil Jones Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

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John C. King British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Matthew A. Lazzara Madison Area Technical College, and University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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James Renwick Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

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Susan Solomon Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Manola Brunet Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom, and University Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain

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Randall S. Cerveny Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

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ABSTRACT

Two reports of Antarctic region potential new record high temperature observations (18.3°C, 6 February 2020 at Esperanza station and 20.8°C, 9 February 2020 at a Brazilian automated permafrost monitoring station on Seymour Island) were evaluated by a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) panel of atmospheric scientists. The latter figure was reported as 20.75°C in the media. The panel considered the synoptic situation and instrumental setups. It determined that a large high pressure system over the area created föhn conditions and resulted in local warming for both situations. Examination of the data and metadata of the Esperanza station observation revealed no major concerns. However, analysis of data and metadata of the Seymour Island permafrost monitoring station indicated that an improvised radiation shield led to a demonstrable thermal bias error for the temperature sensor. Consequently, the WMO has accepted the 18.3°C value for 1200 LST 6 February 2020 (1500 UTC 6 February 2020) at the Argentine Esperanza station as the new “Antarctic region (continental, including mainland and surrounding islands) highest temperature recorded observation” but rejected the 20.8°C observation at the Brazilian automated Seymour Island permafrost monitoring station as biased. The committee strongly emphasizes the permafrost monitoring station was not badly designed for its purpose, but the project investigators were forced to improvise a nonoptimal radiation shield after losing the original covering. Second, with regard to media dissemination of this type of information, the committee urges increased caution in early announcements as many media outlets often tend to sensationalize and mischaracterize potential records.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Randall S. Cerveny, cerveny@asu.edu

ABSTRACT

Two reports of Antarctic region potential new record high temperature observations (18.3°C, 6 February 2020 at Esperanza station and 20.8°C, 9 February 2020 at a Brazilian automated permafrost monitoring station on Seymour Island) were evaluated by a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) panel of atmospheric scientists. The latter figure was reported as 20.75°C in the media. The panel considered the synoptic situation and instrumental setups. It determined that a large high pressure system over the area created föhn conditions and resulted in local warming for both situations. Examination of the data and metadata of the Esperanza station observation revealed no major concerns. However, analysis of data and metadata of the Seymour Island permafrost monitoring station indicated that an improvised radiation shield led to a demonstrable thermal bias error for the temperature sensor. Consequently, the WMO has accepted the 18.3°C value for 1200 LST 6 February 2020 (1500 UTC 6 February 2020) at the Argentine Esperanza station as the new “Antarctic region (continental, including mainland and surrounding islands) highest temperature recorded observation” but rejected the 20.8°C observation at the Brazilian automated Seymour Island permafrost monitoring station as biased. The committee strongly emphasizes the permafrost monitoring station was not badly designed for its purpose, but the project investigators were forced to improvise a nonoptimal radiation shield after losing the original covering. Second, with regard to media dissemination of this type of information, the committee urges increased caution in early announcements as many media outlets often tend to sensationalize and mischaracterize potential records.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Randall S. Cerveny, cerveny@asu.edu
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