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'Antarctica Melts,' NASA Says, Showing Effects Of A Record Warm Spell

Where there was a white ice cap, there are now brown blotches of land; melted snow and ice have created ponds of water. Those are the eff...


Where there was a white ice cap, there are now brown blotches of land; melted snow and ice have created ponds of water. Those are the effects of the recent record high temperatures in Antarctica, according to NASA, which on Friday released stunning before-and-after satellite images of the northern Antarctic Peninsula.

The photos center on Eagle Island, part of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula that stretches toward South America. Satellites took the images just nine days apart, on Feb. 4 and Feb. 13. But dramatic changes took place in that time span. Two days after the first photo was taken, the area hit 18.3 degrees Celsius (64.9 degrees Fahrenheit) — matching that day's temperature in Los Angeles, NASA notes.

"The warm spell caused widespread melting on nearby glaciers," the space agency says. "Such persistent warmth was not typical in Antarctica until the 21st century, but it has become more common in recent years."

On Eagle Island, the biggest loss of ice and snow came on Feb. 6, when an inch of snowpack melted, according to NASA's climate models. By Feb. 11, the island had lost 4 inches of snow.

"I haven't seen melt ponds develop this quickly in Antarctica," Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College in Massachusetts, said in NASA's news release about the phenomenon.

The nearly 65-degree temperature was reported by Argentina's research station at Esperanza Base. Experts at the World Meteorological Organization are still verifying the record. The agency calls the Antarctic Peninsula one of the fastest-warming regions on Earth, with average temperatures rising almost 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past half century.

"These warm events are occurring more frequently" in that part of the peninsula, says Alexandra Isern, head of Antarctic sciences at the National Science Foundation.

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