Research & Conservation

January was the warmest month… ever!

We certainly noticed in Malta that January was simply too warm to call normal. We hardly got a drop of rain, and all our plants dried up and withered, with some spring flowers already springing up. Sure, we lapped it up and enjoyed the days out, but the situation is very alarming… especially when we broaden our horizons.

It wasn’t just our islands that were baking, but the whole continent as Europe recorded its warmest ever January, in a huge win for Global Warming, and huge warming for humankind. Our December was toasty, and our January was extremely warm, and it looks like this European Winter was simply very un-winterlike. Even a trip to Northern Finland in late December brought me warmer temperatures than when I visited two years ago. The difference was of 9 degrees Celcius, which was alarming for all northerners. Helsinki, Finland’s capital, was above zero every single day during January, which is totally unusual for the northern capital. The normal average there is around -1.1 degrees Celcius. The lack of snow worries the locals and the warmth is genuinely unsettling at this time of the year. Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen also never dipped below freezing and it is clear: the world is warming. Ski industries will take the brunt of this, with no snow causing businesses to open later in the year, or cancel valuable client bookings, and this affects the whole tourism industry up north.

The list of nations logging warmer temperatures is alarming, and this January was 0.36 degrees warmer than the 2007 record and was also a huge 5.6 degrees warmer than the baseline average across Europe taken from 1981 to 2010.

Moscow also logged its warmest January to date, records which stood for two centuries. Temperatures here averaged 7.4 degrees Celcius warmer than usual averages. It was so warm, fake snow was used in the cities famed New Year’s Eve celebrations.


It is hard to imagine such cold cities like Moscow and Helsinki having a warm January.


Antarctica hits its highest temperature ever recorded

Europe was not the only warning sign to scientists, as the data down in Antarctica was not pleasing at all, with the ice continent smashing its temperature record too. The previous record was set in March 2015, with a toasty 17.5 degrees Celcius logged. The new record is 18.3 degrees Celcius, with temperatures being logged since 1961.

Antarctica’s main peninsula is now one of the fastest-warming regions on the planet, which is totally weird given the continent’s significance to global temperatures. Antarctica acts as the world’s ice bucket, and the cold currents from there are vital ocean life and circulation throughout our globe. Warming those seas up spells disaster and such rapid change is worrying. With two records set within five years of each other, the rate of increase is sudden and fast, which is more cause for concern. Scarily enough, 18.3 degrees Celcius is considered T-short weather for one, so that mental image alone should shake you. The lowest temperature ever recorded on Antarctica is 89.3 degrees Celcius, logged in July 1983 and scientists keep a close eye on both the coldest spells and the warmest ones on one of our planet’s final frontiers.


Emperor penguins roam Antarctica.


The importance of Antarctica

Forever locked in a four-kilometre ice sheet that forms the continent lie unique records of what our planet’s climate was like over the past 1 million years. This data is vital for science so we can plot and predict our climate, and we can study past ice ages and compare that data with current numbers to see the effects of global warming, and perhaps heed further warnings about oncoming warm spells or ice ages. In this aspect, Antarctica is a laboratory, and scientists battle harsh conditions to collect valuable research. The land does not belong to any single county, but it is shared, purely for science. Today, the continent receives about 300,000 tourists a year with visitors curious about the vast harshness and natural beauty.

Since the land is not heavily impacted by human construction and destruction, it serves as an ideal data for research. The land here is virgin, and frozen, meaning valid and reliable research can be conducted. Such is the importance of this land, no country owns it. Instead of a traditional system of governance, the ATS, Antarctic Treaty System was set up to allow nations to co-exist on the continent, for the good of science. The treaty runs till 2048 and it is vital that all countries re new this as a race for her resources can be crucial to world politics. 54 parties are involved in the treaty signed the treaty in 1959. Current geopolitics suggests that 2048 will be a crucial year for this vulnerable land, so that is a situation to watch closely.


Antartica aerial view
All eyes on Antarctica