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Person stands on snow surface against curvy backdrop.
Photo Credit: Marie McLane
A Polie glimpses the coming of the sun on the horizon on a clear day at the South Pole, where record temperatures and winds have ruled all winter long. Last month was the warmest August on record for the South Pole.

Hot streak

South Pole experiences record heat in August to end warmest winter ever

Last month was the warmest August on record for the South Pole, ending a winter that will go down as the mildest ever since record-keeping began in 1957.

The record average temperature of minus 63.9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53.3 degrees Celsius) broke the previous record of minus 64.5F (53.6C) set in August 1996. The departure from normal was 11.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 6.4 degrees Celsius). The record average max temperature of minus 56.2F (minus 49.0C) broke the previous record of minus 57.3F (minus 49.6C), also set in August 1996.

The relatively warm month included one record warm day. On Aug. 11, the maximum temperature was minus 36.9F (38.3C), which broke the previous maximum temperature record of minus 40F (minus 40C) set in 1968.

It was also a windy month, with seven days that either broke or tied the previous peak wind speed record for those days.

In terms of the winter climatological period — the months of June, July and August — it was the warmest three-month stretch at the South Pole since records began 56 years ago, according to Phillip Marzette, senior meteorologist at the South Pole Station.

The average temperature for the the winter months in 2013 was minus 66.8F (minus 54.9C). The next warmest temperature during that same period was in 1964, with an average of minus 69F (minus 56.1C).

The wild weather began as early as March, with extreme swings between record maximum and minimum temperatures. In June, the weather really got crazy, when the all-time maximum temperature record for the month of June was set not once but twice.

On June 2, the winter-time temperature hit minus 22.2F (minus 30.1C), shattering the previous record for that day of minus 35.7F (minus 37.6C) set in 1987. The new June record barely lasted two weeks. On June 19, the temperature climbed to minus 19.8F (minus 28.8C). The record-setting day was bookended by two single day maximum temperature records as well.

June 2013 was tied for the third warmest June since 1957, with an average of minus 62.9F (minus 52.7C), the warmest it has been for the month since 2007 (warmest June). That was 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit (5.8 degrees Celsius) above normal.

The weird weather has meant fewer clear days to enjoy the brilliant sky-filled nights and the ghostly auroras that paint the winter at South Pole.

“The weather has been really bad this year,” said Dana Hrubes, a scientist currently working on the South Pole Telescope External Non-U.S. government site who has wintered seven times at the South Pole Station External U.S. government site since 2000. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Glimpse of sunrise at South Pole.
Photo Credit: Jason Gallicchio
Hints of the coming sunrise illuminate the South Pole Station and polar plateau.
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Curator: Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Winifred Reuning, Division of Polar Programs