Record-breaking heatwaves hit both Antarctica and the Arctic simultaneously this week, with temperatures reaching 47°C and 30°C higher than normal.
Heatwaves are bizarre at any time in Antarctica, but particularly now at the equinox as Antarctica is about to descend into winter darkness. Likewise, up north, the Arctic is just emerging from winter.
Are these two heatwaves linked? We don’t know yet, and it’s most likely a coincidence. But we do know weather systems in Antarctica and the Arctic are connected to regions nearest to them, and these connections sometimes reach all the way to the tropics.
And is climate change the cause? It might be. While it’s too soon to say for sure, we do know climate change is making polar heatwaves more common and severe, and the poles are warming faster than the global average.
So let’s take a closer look at what’s driving the extreme anomalies for each region, and the flow-on effects for polar wildlife like penguins and polar bears.