New satellite analysis shows that at least once in the past several years, masses of unusually warm air—up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit—pushed to within 300 miles of the South Pole, melting surface snow across an expanse the size of California. The warm spell, which occurred over one week in 2005, was detected by scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and the University of Colorado at Boulder. The findings were based on data from NASA’s QuickSCAT satellite system which uses radar to distinguish the ice signatures of melting in the Antarctic snow. This is the first time melt zones have been detected so far inland. “It is too soon to know whether the warm spell was a fluke or a portent, said JPL scientist Son Nghiem. “It is vital we continue monitoring this region to determine if a long-term trend may be developing.” (NYT, May 16)
There have been similar findings concerning Greenland.