Publication Details

Bergstrom, D. B. (2024). A heatwave in Antarctica totally blew the minds of scientists. They set out to decipher it – and here are the results. The Conversation, 10 January 1-5.

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The Conversation


Climate scientists don’t like surprises. It means our deep understanding of how the climate works isn’t quite as complete as we need. But unfortunately, as climate change worsens, surprises and unprecedented events keep happening.

In March 2022, Antarctica experienced an extraordinary heatwave. Large swathes of East Antarctica experienced temperatures up to 40°C (72°F) above normal, shattering temperature records. It was the most intense heatwave ever recorded anywhere in the world.

So shocking and rare was the event, it blew the minds of the Antarctic climate science community. A major global research project was launched to unravel the reasons behind it and the damage it caused. A team of 54 researchers, including me, delved into the intricacies of the phenomenon. The team was led by Swiss climatologist Jonathan Wille, and involved experts from 14 countries. The collaboration resulted in two groundbreaking papers published today.

The results are alarming. But they provide scientists a deeper understanding of the links between the tropics and Antarctica – and give the global community a chance to prepare for what a warmer world may bring.