Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Adelie Penguins on Seymour Island

A view of Adelie Penguins on Seymour Island during a voyage to Antarctica on a ship called "Le Diamant" during February 2006. (Photo: Michel Setboun/Getty Images)

Temperature in Antarctica Soars Past 69°F as NOAA Reports Last Month Was World's Hottest January on Record

While the reading in Antarctica still needs to be confirmed, the Brazilian scientists who logged it called the new record "incredible and abnormal."

Jessica Corbett

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday announced that last month was the hottest January ever recorded, the Guardian reported that Brazilian scientists logged a new record-breaking temperature of 20.75°C, or 69.35°F, at Seymour Island in Antarctica on Feb. 9.

The newspaper noted that the new record, along with one logged on Feb. 6 by Argentina's Esperanza research station at the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, "will need to be confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, but they are consistent with a broader trend on the peninsula and nearby islands, which have warmed by almost 3°C since the pre-industrial era—one of the fastest rates on the planet."

Scientists working for Terrantar, a Brazilian government climate monitoring project in the Antarctic, described the latest record as "incredible and abnormal," according to the Guardian. As scientist Carlos Schaefer put it: "We are seeing the warming trend in many of the sites we are monitoring, but we have never seen anything like this."

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who founded the global Fridays for Future movement, and other advocates for ambitious climate action shared the Guardian's report about the new Antarctic record on Twitter Thursday:

Responding to a Vox report about the recent temperature records in Antarctica, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted Thursday: "The climate crisis is happening now. We need a Green New Deal."

Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced the Green New Deal resolution in February 2019.

News of the Brazilian scientists' finding came as experts at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information revealed that "in the span of 141 years of climate records, there has never been a warmer January than last month."

"What's more, the temperature departure from average was the highest monthly departure ever recorded without an El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean," NOAA said. "January 2020 marked the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average."

The U.S. agency found that the global land and ocean surface temperature for January 2020 was the highest on record at 2.05° F above the 20th-century average. The previous record was set in January 2016. The four warmest Januaries ever recorded have all occurred over the past five years, and the 10 warmest have all been during the 21st century.

In the contiguous U.S., last month was the fifth warmest January in the 126-year record, with an average temperature of 35.5°F, 5.4°F above the 20th-century average. NOAA's report highlighted "significant climate anomalies and events" from January 2020, including below average Great Lakes ice cover, a record high temperature in Boston, and a "strong, spring-like storm system" in the South and Southeast.

NOAA MAPP

Beyond the United States, NOAA reported that "record-warm temperatures were seen across parts of: Scandinavia, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the central and western Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and Central and South America. No land or ocean areas had record-cold January temperatures."

Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean all experienced their second-warmest Januaries, according to NOAA. The Arctic sea ice extent was the eight smallest since satellite records began in 1979, while the Antarctic sea ice extent tied with January 2011 for the 10th smallest ever recorded.

NOAA global map

The January 2020 report came about a month after NOAA, WMO, and other agencies across the globe reported that 2019 was the second-hottest year on record. University of Illinois climate scientist Don Wuebbles told the Associated Press Thursday that that series of findings "is one of those indications that things are warming dramatically."

This post has been updated to remove an incorrect conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit in the second paragraph.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Utterly Obscene': Just 8 Pfizer and Moderna Investors Became $10 Billion Richer After Omicron Emerged

"Pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create," said one justice campaigner.

Jon Queally ·


Ilhan Omar Calls Kevin McCarthy 'A Liar and a Coward' for Refusing to Condemn Boebert's Islamophobia

"This is who they are," said the Minnesota Democrat. "And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry."

Jon Queally ·


'Congress Must Act': Bernie Sanders Demands End of Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

"We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country. And if there aren't 60 votes to do it, and there are not, we must reform the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."

Jon Queally ·


Human Rights Defenders Warn Biden Border Policy 'Quickly Transforming Into Trump 2.0'

Like his predecessor, President Joe Biden now being accused of "using racist, xenophobic tropes about immigrants to weaponize Covid-19 against migrants and asylum-seekers."

Jon Queally ·


'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo